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FTC and FCC Warn Consumers to Protect Themselves Online

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a joint statement today encouraging consumers to protect their privacy when online.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “The American public increasingly relies on the Internet to create, exchange and receive information, news, education, and entertainment and it is critical that all consumers take precautions to protect their privacy and ensure their well-being online. Consumers should stay alert, recognize the potential risks associated with cyber crimes and take some simple precautions to help reduce their chances of falling victim to scams.”

The two agencies warn the public to take steps to protect themselves, their privacy, and their personal information online as part of the National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Crooks have become more sophisticated in their use of technology to obtain consumers' personal information or to con them out of their money. They can use a variety of methods to disguise themselves as businesses, government agencies, or even as personal contacts of the consumer.

One particular ongoing scam involves the scammer claiming to be a personal friend of the consumer in need of financial assistance. The crook disguises their contact information so the consumer believes that is their friend who is in a dire situation and in need of money. The consumer wants to help and wires cash to the "friend" in need, and the crook disappears with the cash.

Phishing is another way con artists trick consumers, as in fishing for information. The common scam typically starts with the crook emailing the consumer, claiming to be from a government agency or a company the consumer already does business with, such as a bank. The scammer may use authentic-looking logos or letterhead to trick the consumer, as well as a fake web address disguised to look authentic. The crook obtains personal information needed to commit identity theft by asking the consumer to "verify" information the agency or business should already have on file.

And if the crooks can't convince the consumer to willingly give up their private information, they can sneak into the consumers' computer and steal the information like a thief in the night utilizing viruses, malware, spyware, or worms. Be cautious about opening unsolicited email or downloading programs you aren't familiar with. Change your account passwords often and avoid using passwords that would be easy for a crook to crack. And always use anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall - and get those programs updated regularly.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said, “The Internet presents many opportunities for information and entertainment, commerce and communication. But it also comes with risks, such as viruses, hackers, and online scams. The FTC is committed to protecting consumers by stopping con artists from committing fraud online, working to preserve the privacy of consumers’ sensitive personal information, and educating people on how to use technology safely and securely through sites like And, the FTC is committed to working with our sister agency, the FCC, to promote consumer protection in the online marketplace.”

To promote cyber safety outreach and education, the FCC recently partnered with, a joint effort of 12 federal agencies and 18 non-government organizations, developed and managed by the FTC. provides practical and timely tips to help consumers be on guard against Internet fraud, secure their computers, and protect their personal information.

To protect yourself online:
  • Use security software that updates automatically
  • Keep operating systems and Web browsers up-to-date
  • Keep passwords private and secure
  • Always back-up important files features guidance, entertaining games and quizzes on a variety of topics, including phishing, social networking, laptop security, and wireless access, and has a special section about protecting kids online. Indeed, the site features a new guide, Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online with tips about talking to kids, tweens and teens about the risks of inappropriate conduct, contact and content.

If you think you've been a victim of an online fraud -- or if you think you have downloaded spyware or malware -- file a complaint in English or Spanish with the FTC at or call 1-877-382-4357.

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Sunday, 12 July 2020

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