E-Mail and Internet Security Advisory

Pay attention to emails you receive

          • Information Technology or the Helpdesk will never use email to ask for account information, passwords, verification of security questions or other sensitive information.
          • If you receive an email that seems suspicious, you should try to call the company or person directly if possible, to verify the authenticity before opening the email.
          • When in doubt about suspicious, unsolicited e-mails, simply hit the “delete” key.
          • Watch out for emails claiming to alert you to a breach of security and asking you to submit personal information – this is most likely a version of a phishing scam.

Pay attention to the addresses of the websites you visit

          • Beware of an unfamiliar or misspelled company name.
          • When in doubt, test it out. Put the legitimate company’s name into an internet search engine to see if the website listed in your results has the same address as the company soliciting you via email.
          • Don’t take the bait! Do not get enticed to visit web sites that promote gambling, illegal downloads of music, video or sexually explicit material.
          • Do not enter personal and/or sensitive information when prompted by “Pop-ups” or other dialog boxes unless you can validate the authenticity and security used.

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

The following tips can help lower your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

          • Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card or other cards that show your SSN. Read, "Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number."
          • Use caution when giving out your personal information. Scam artists "phish" for victims by pretending to be banks, stores or government agencies. They do this over the phone, in emails and in postal mail.
          • Treat your trash carefully. Shred or destroy papers containing your personal information including credit card offers and "convenience checks" that you don't use.
          • Protect your postal mail. Retrieve mail promptly. Discontinue delivery while out of town.
          • Check your bills and bank statements. Open your credit card bills and bank statements right away. Check carefully for any unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them immediately. Call if bills don't arrive on time. It might mean that someone has changed contact information to hide fraudulent charges.
          • Check your credit reports. Review your credit report at least once a year. Check for changed addresses and fraudulent charges.
          • Stop pre-approved credit offers. Pre-approved credit card offers are a target for identity thieves who steal your mail. Have your name removed from credit bureau marketing lists. Call toll-free 888-5OPTOUT (888) 567-8688.
          • Ask questions. Ask questions whenever you are asked for personal information that seems inappropriate for the transaction. Ask how the information will be used and if it will be shared. Ask how it will be protected. If you're not satisfied with the answers, don't give your personal information.
          • Protect your computer. Protect personal information on your computer by following good security practices.
          • Use strong, non-easily guessed passwords.
          • Use firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software that you update regularly.
          • Download software only from sites you know and trust and only after reading all the terms and conditions.
          • Don't click on links in pop-up windows or in spam email.  
          • Use caution on the web. When shopping online, check out a website before entering your credit card number or other personal information. Read the privacy policy and take opportunities to opt out of information sharing. Only enter personal information on secure web pages that encrypt your data in transit. You can often tell if a page is secure if "https" is in URL or if there is a padlock icon on the browser window.
          • For more information, please visit The Texas Attorney General's Fighting Identity theft website.

 Steps to Take if Your Data Becomes Compromised or Stolen

If you have reason to believe your personal information has been compromised or stolen, contact the Fraud Department of one of the three major credit bureaus listed below.

A recent amendment to the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. Be aware that there's only one online source authorized to do so, For more information, please visit the Federal Trade Commission's page on obtaining your credit report at no cost. However, if you still need to contact the credit reporting agencies directly, contact by telephone or mail may be the most reliable method. Be cautious if requested to provide personal information over the Internet unless you are absolutely sure of the validity of the site.