Charles Wyrick

Oklahoma State Senator

Last week we talked about ways to protect yourself from criminals this holiday season, whether you are at home or out shopping.

†But every year, more people are using the Internet to shop.† It is quick, convenient, and you donít even have to leave the comfort of your home.† But criminals are also taking advantage of the Internet, committing cybercrimes that can turn the holidays into a nightmare.

Phishing scams are a problem year-round.† This occurs when you receive an email from what appears to be a legitimate source, such as a bank, credit card company or even eBay, saying your account may have been tampered with or that they need to renew your account information.† Never respond to such emails, or to similar phone calls.† The companies you do business with already have your information.† The twist during the holidays is the charity phishing scam.† Again, hackers send emails that appear to be from legitimate charities, but if you click on the links in the email, you will be taken to a fake Web site set up to steal credit card information, well-intended donations and identities of the card holders.

Another scam comes from people emailing you who want to become a ďfriendĒ on a social networking site, such as Facebook.† If you donít know the person, simply delete the email.† Do not open it.† If you do and click on any links, you may infect your computer and give access to all your personal information to the hacker.† They can then use your social networking account to attempt to extort money or conduct scams on people you know, and it appears you are the one contacting your friends.

Instead of clicking on links in the emails, go directly to a company or charities URL by typing in the address or doing a search on Google, Yahoo, or other search engines.† In addition, make sure all of your computers have up-to-date firewalls and anti-virus software.† Often, your Internet provider will include this in your monthly prescription cost.† If you are not sure, call them.† If it isnít included, ask for recommendations on which provide the best protection for your computer.

Also, make sure to do business only on websites that have secure networks.† One way of protecting yourself and your computer is to only shop on sites that start with https://.† Never shop on sights that begin with http://.

Finally, although it can be more complicated, use different passwords for your various online accounts.† This will give you greater protection should a hacker manager to sneak into one account, making it more difficult for the cybercriminal to quickly gain access to others.

As always, I welcome your comments on state government.† Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator Charles Wyrick at the State Capitol, Room 530, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5561.††