Beware when looking up advice online

In today’s digital age, there are hundreds of thousands of articles on financial advice. A quick Google search of “credit repair” or “debt consolidation” will populate hundreds of millions search results from blogs all over the Internet. In all the noise of available advice on the Internet, how do you know what resources to trust?

In my quest to assemble great consumer tips and tricks on debt consolidation and credit repair, I came across many sites that had content that seemed like good advice, but also seemed like it was trying to guide me towards a particular product or service.

As it turns out, for every well-intentioned article available on the Internet, there are dozens of articles geared towards advertising a particular product. This form of marketing is called native advertising, and it’s rampant throughout the Internet today. Native advertising is the concept that corporations pay to have content about their products included in articles that align with the publication in style and tone, making it very difficult for readers to spot. [1]

Financial websites such as Forbes, have been participating in native advertising for several years. For instance, Forbes has a program called BrandVoice, which allows marketers to produce articles for and the magazine, which often resemble the look and tone of regular articles. [2] The articles contain general advice, but often also embed a “plug” for a particular brand or service. To their credit, Forbes maintains a staff of sponsored content specialists to work with the advertisers to ensure the article remains valuable to readers.

Forbes is not alone. In fact, other prominent financial websites use native advertising. For example, and work with Impact Partnership, a marketing organization, to pair advice on retirement and financial planning with native content from financial advisors across the country.[3]

Native advertising works. In fact, it might work too well. Click-through rates tend to be much higher than typical advertisements and readers are usually more engaged in the content. However, it can be problematic when readers, who are reading the articles for advice, rely on those articles, not realizing it was an advertisement.

This practice has garnered both positive and negative attention. On the one hand, the practice has arguably created a whole new business model for companies such as Forbes by creating new sources of revenue. On the other hand, consumer protection organizations call the practice is deceptive to consumers because readers may not always realize when the content is an ad. [4]

The practice has also raised eyebrows at the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is currently considering implementing regulatory measures on native ads, including plans to monitor the market to ensure that native advertising is being used in a manner than benefits consumers.[5]

For now, the FTC has not issued formal guidance on requiring disclosure, but there are rumors that it plans to do so. Additionally, industry organizations such the Interactive advertising bureau (IAB) has issued their own warnings to advertisers. They suggest that brands respect consumers and clearly label sponsored content as advertising. [6]

Until the FTC issues more rules and guidance on native ads, here are a few commonly accepted labels to help spot native ads.

  • “Advertisement” or “AD“ (Google, YouTube)
  • “Promoted” or “Promoted by [brand]”
  • “Sponsored” or “Sponsored by [brand]” or “Sponsored Content”
  • “Presented by [brand]” and “Featured Partner”

Lastly, its important to note that the advice provided in sponsored articles is not necessarily wrong or even bad advice. In fact, most of the advice in these articles is legitimate. But it is important that when your searching for advice on the internet, you use sources of information that you trust. Or at the very least, you should know when your reading an article that is intended to be an advertisement or promotion for a product. Be on the lookout for content in articles that promotes one specific product or service over others.








Making and Saving Money in the Sharing Economy, Part I

On a planet with rapid growing population and dwindling natural resources, sharing is one of the best and most economical ways to reduce our impact on the environment.  Whether it’s a power drill, a car, a home, or a buck, sharing with strangers can be difficult, and certain safety, transparency, payment processing and review mechanisms must be developed  in order for people to trust sharing with strangers.  Luckily, companies and non-profits are sprouting up all over the globe with crafty, effective platforms designed to enable people to safely share resources with each other.

This two part blog post is designed to introduce people to a few opportunities to get into the sharing economy.  On each of the mentioned platforms, a smart plan and a little dedication should yield cost savings or generate income, depending on whether you choose to consume or provide on the platform.

Before getting into the platforms, a few words of caution.  The author of these posts is not an attorney, and nothing contained herein should be taken as legal advice.   Some of the services provided on the listed platforms are heavily regulated.  If you choose to become a host on or a driver on Uber or Lyft, for example, you should consult an attorney to make sure you’re aware of relevant laws, as well as any tax, insurance, and licensing requirements.

The following is a sample list of some opportunities to save or make money in the sharing economy.  The first item is specific to Boulder and Denver, CO, but all the others are available nationally (and many of them internationally).


What is it?  A non-profit bike-sharing program that lets people borrow red bikes all over Boulder and Denver.  An annual membership lets you borrow bikes from any station and drop them off at any station for free, up to thirty minutes at a time (60 minutes for subsidized pass holders in Denver only).

How do I sign up?   Qualified low-income individuals in Denver County can get the Subsidized Annual Plus Access Pass for $10 by calling Wendy at 303-825-3325.  All others should visit the Denver B-Cycle webpage or the Boulder B-Cycle webpage.  Regrettably, Boulder B-Cycle does not currently have a subsidized program, though as of March, 2015, they expected to have one in place soon.

What do I need to sign up?  To sign up for the subsidized B-cycle pass you’ll need to verify that you receive TANF, Snap benefits, rental assistance, or are of a qualifying income level.  A credit card is typically required to sign up, but the Denver B-cycle program has offered to do their best to work with clients without access to a credit card.

What should I look out for?  Overage charges!  In Boulder each additional 30-minute period after the initial free 30 minutes costs $3.  In Denver the first 60 minutes are free (subsidized pass holders only), but each 30-minute period thereafter is $4.  Most importantly, don’t lose a bike. Replacing it could cost $1200.

Uber and Lyft

What are they? Smart phone-based apps that let people who need rides connect with people who are willing to give rides. In Boulder and Denver these services can be cheaper and faster than traditional taxi services.

What should I look out for? As a provider (driver) on either or both of these platforms, you should be sure first and foremost that your insurance provider will cover you AND your passengers in the event of an accident of any type. The moment you take paying passengers into your car you enter into a world of heightened liability – make sure your insurance policy knows you’re taking paying customers and will protect you in an accident.

As a consumer (passenger) on Uber or Lyft, you should always check to make sure your driver is experienced and has a positive rating on the platform. Inexperienced drivers or drivers with negative reviews should be avoided. Finally, you should look out for surge pricing.

Don’t miss information on more platforms, and general guidance on becoming a provider on any sharing economy platform, on Making and Saving Money in the Sharing Economy, Part II.

Online Reviewers Sued for Defamation? How to Protect Yourself

The carpet cleaner you hired was late, rude, and left the carpets dirtier than before he arrived. So you find his company’s Facebook page and write a few lines saying what a poor job he did for you. A few months later, you get a letter in the mail. You are being sued by the carpet cleaner for defamation! Is this possible? In today’s social-media driven world, it is.

Technology has given consumers unparalleled opportunities to gather and share information about businesses. With just a few clicks, consumers can share their opinions with millions of people. Businesses are also aware of the power of social media; in fact, many businesses actively seek good reviews and take action to silence bad ones. Suing a consumer for defamation can serve as a powerful way to silence a bad review.

A carpet and rug cleaning business recently sued seven people for defamation after they posted negative reviews about the businesses on a popular consumer review website. According to the owner, the negative reviews brought a 30 percent drop in sales, and he was forced to lay off dozens of people. A lawyer in California, a plastic surgeon in Chicago, and a contractor in Virginia have all filed similar suits.

Although these stories may scare consumers, the companies who bring these lawsuits face many difficulties. First, social-media sites like Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter are protected from many types of lawsuit by federal law. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects online service providers from being sued for the actions of their users. So the companies cannot sue the consumer review websites that display the bad reviews, only the person who posted the review. But this invites the second problem: because reviewers are not generally required to post under their real name, companies often don’t know whom to sue. To find the identity of the reviewer, the company must get a court order which requires the website to identify the person. Most consumer review websites fight these requests forcefully.

Even if a company can obtain the identity of the reviewer, defamation lawsuits are difficult to win. The reviewer can escape liability by proving that the review was true, or based on personal opinion. So a review stating that the carpet cleaner was late is not defamation if it is true. And a review claiming that the carpet cleaner is the worst you’ve ever used is not defamation if it is your personal opinion. This shows why defamation suits against consumers typically fail.

There are several ways to protect yourself from a defamation lawsuit without losing your right to voice your opinion. First, only write reviews for companies and products you have actually used. Reviews based on anything less than personal knowledge are far more vulnerable to a defamation claim. Second, don’t exaggerate. Focus on the facts, not just getting revenge on a company. Third, if your complaint is very serious, consider submitting it through another entity. You can reach out to your state attorney general’s office, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or your local office of the Better Business Bureau.  These organizations can insulate consumers from defamation lawsuits if they are used effectively.

Government agencies and the BBB typically investigate and substantiate claims before they publish them. Therefore, it is almost impossible for a reviewer who submits a complaint through these entities to be sued for defamation. Additionally, these entities sometimes offer mediation or arbitration services to help reach an amicable resolution for the consumer. Companies face pressure to respond to a complaint from the BBB, because the company’s BBB rating is at risk if they don’t resolve the problem. Government agencies have even more power. They can make legally binding requests for information, and can bring a lawsuit on behalf of any consumer who was wronged.

As long as consumers use good judgment, and follow the tips outlined above, it is unlikely that they will ever be sued for defamation. But the danger of these suits serves as a great reminder to consumers: be fair and composed in your company reviews, or else they may come back to haunt you.

Phishing Attempts: How to Protect Yourself

One of the more common scams targeting consumers today is a phishing scam. Despite their notoriety however, many people are unfamiliar with what they are. Phishing is an attempt to gain your personal or sensitive information via deception on a virtual interface. This article will let you know how to spot them and how to stay safe from an attack.

To spot a phishing attempt, it is first important to recognize the variety of forms they can take. The following is a list of the various forms of phishing:

  • A classic phishing attempt is just a plain and untailored attempt to get information. The “Nigerian Prince” scam is one of these. They are relatively crude and their success rate has been decreasing in recent years as consumers wise up. They often take the form of an e-mail.
  • Spear phishing is an individualized attempt to gain access to your information. An e-mail or web page is tailored to your specifics, such as your bank account, address, or other information in order to seem more believable.
  • Clone phishing is when a specific web page or e-mail is duplicated to appear like the real thing. Often, link manipulation will be used and a “mirror page” will be set up in order to deceive the consumer.
  • A mal-ware based phishing attempt refers to scams where malicious software is snuck into a user’s PC or Mac and information is relayed via the software. There needs to be some sort of introduction to get the mal-ware into your computer, which can take many forms.
  • Key-loggers track keyboard input. Whenever you go to a web page to enter account information, a password, or other sensitive information, the keystrokes will be tracked and relayed to hackers. These are often done on public computers or through mal-ware.
  • Man in the middle phishing attempts involve a compromised data access point, ranging from cell towers to Wifi routers. All data that passes through the compromised point is filtered and analyzed for useful sensitive information.

Now that you have an idea about the types of phishing attempts, here is some helpful information regarding how to spot and protect yourself against them:

  • Use “https sites” or other forms of encryption. There are abundant resources out there to help get you started with this.
  • Be wary of any suspicious links, especially in your email. This is the primary way that malware gets onto your computer. Anytime you open a link or download something, make sure you know and trust the site it’s coming from. If an unknown source tries to upload an .exe, .zip, or other atypical file to your computer, delete it before opening.
  • Think twice before providing any confidential information, including passwords, SSN, and anything else that may be useful for hackers to access your sensitive information. This can range from checking account information to all the way to seemingly innocuous information like your mother’s maiden name or your elementary school.
  • Use a spam filter in your e-mail. You may filter out useful e-mails periodically, but you can always view your spam folder and mark these as “not spam.” The majority of filtered e-mail will be junk mail or phishing attempts anyway.
  • Always check the URL of a site. A common way for hackers to initiate a clone phishing attempt is with a “mirror page” that looks identical to a legitimate web page, with the only difference being the URL is off.
  • If in doubt, contact the institution in question via phone before filling out a form
  • Avoid public computers and unsecured WiFi entirely when accessing important accounts like online banking or an e-mail account containing sensitive information.

Strategies for Getting the Cheapest Rides from Uber and Lyft

The rising popularity of ride-sharing programs such as Uber and Lyft has reduced the cost of travel for many people without access to personal vehicles. Not only has the price of getting a taxi-like service come down, availability has also gone up. Getting an Uber or Lyft in most metropolitan areas is now significantly quicker, easier and more reliable than traditional taxi services. However, with these improvements come some potential drawbacks. Namely, Uber and Lyft have struggled to clearly educate consumers about how to keep costs down when using their services. This blog post offers some simple ways to help ensure you’re getting the least expensive ride available.

Picking the Right Service

For most common travelers, the differences between Uber and Lyft are negligible. Both companies offer a smartphone app that connects people in need of rides to people willing to give rides. Both apps certify their drivers to some minimum standards, and both process payments between passengers and drivers.

Uber has more pricing options than Lyft, but both offer substantially similar low-end pricing options. For example, the author of this blog has taken the same trip in Denver, CO more than a dozen times comparing Uber’s low-end option (uberX) to that of Lyft. While each trip varies by a few dollars depending on traffic, the average price of the trip is almost identical between the two services, with uberX being slightly cheaper overall.

If you’re looking for the least expensive way to get to your destination, you should typically choose uberX (for 4 or fewer passengers) or uberXL (for 5 or 6 passengers) in Uber.  Lyft generally gives you the cheapest option by default (the “Lyft” option). If you’ve got 5 or 6 passengers though, you may want to select Lyft Plus, which is more expensive than a normal Lyft, but less expensive than getting two Lyfts.

A note on tipping: Uber discourages tipping drivers, and claims that a 20% tip is baked into every fare.  Lyft, on the other hand, encourages passengers to tip by enabling them to tip through the Lyft app.  Actual Lyft fares, are actually cheaper than Uber fares for this reason.  However, the author finds that after tipping 20% on Lyft, the two service’s base fares are substantially similar.

While both services may be similarly priced under normal circumstances, the pricing between the two can vary dramatically during busy times, when companies might apply surge pricing.

Surge Pricing

Both Uber and Lyft increase prices when there are more passengers looking for rides than there are drivers willing to give rides. While this practice may seem predatory at first glance, it does increase the incentives for more drivers to get out on the road, making rides more readily available.

Times when you’re likely to see surge pricing take effect are after the ball drops on New Years or after the Super Bowl ends. For reasons outside the scope of this blog, many people are looking for rides at those times, while few people are interested in driving. While it should come as no surprise that surge pricing takes effect at these times, there are other, less predictable times when it comes into effect as well. Luckily, both companies try to give consumers fair notice before charging surge rates.

When Lyft is implementing surge pricing you’ll get a notification like the one below indicating that “+ X% will be added to your total for the driver.” In the example below, 200% will be added to what the fare would be absent surge pricing. If your fare would be $10 under normal circumstances, it will now be $30.

In Uber, surge pricing is a little bit clearer. First, you’ll get a warning indicating a multiple of the original fare. Once you accept that multiple, Uber makes you confirm again by typing the multiple into the blanks on the next screen.  In this example, if your normal fare would have been $10, it will now be $22.

The screen shots of the surge pricing indicators of Lyft and Uber were both taken at the same time on a Friday night in Denver, Colorado.  The difference between Lyft’s surge pricing indicator and that of Uber made Uber the clear winner on that night.


If you’re looking for the most affordable ride, start by selecting the least expensive options within Uber and Lyft. In Uber, that option is uberX, and in Lyft it is the default “Lyft” option. If surge pricing is in effect on one service, don’t accept a ride before checking the other service. Sometimes one service will charge double or triple rates while the other service is not increasing prices at all.

Staying Safe Using Insecure Marketplaces

The rise of online shopping has been a huge boon to consumers. Prices, availability, and selection have never been more favorable. Most shopping interfaces are relatively safe for consumers and require little thought in terms of whether to trust a retailer. Places like Amazon, eBay, and other major online marketplaces offer assurances that goods will conform to quality standards and act as financial mediators for when there are disputes. For example, if one buys a product on Amazon and it doesn’t meet standards or never gets shipped, the consumer has avenues available within Amazon to seek a remedy.

Some marketplaces don’t afford these luxuries though, namely ones where individuals buy, sell, and trade goods and services without a robust intermediary. Places like Craigslist and other “classifieds”-style interfaces can be a true haven for bargain hunting, but without the safeguards offered by more mainstream marketplaces, consumers are at serious risk. For those who need markets like this or simply prefer them, here’s some advice that can allow one to avoid scams:

  1. Shop locally. It may be tempting to cash in on a great deal and have it shipped across the country, but often these deals are too good to be true. Try to always see what you’re buying in person. Scams right now commonly involve long-distance transactions.

A common place where consumers deviate from this rule is renting. When people move far away, they often want to ensure they have a place to stay before getting there. There are plenty of consumers who have made a deposit on a room or apartment across the country, moved there, and had no problems. There are also scores of consumers who have had worse luck, finding the “lease” they signed was for a place that either the seller didn’t own, or didn’t exist at all. To avoid this, either travel to see the place before making a payment or have a friend in the area do it for you. If this isn’t possible, consider staying in an inexpensive motel or hotel while looking for a place to rent. This may be less than ideal, but it’s certainly far less expensive than losing hundreds or even thousands on a fake deposit.

  1. Pay with card or check. While the former may not have been an option years ago, the rise of mobile applications like Venmo have made it possible to pay anyone with a smart phone and a bank account via credit or debit. Regardless of whether you use card or check, if something goes wrong at least there will be an institution to help you out and possibly issue a refund. Absent theft or fraud, many institutions won’t be able to issue a refund, but it’s best to at least have some sort of record of the transaction. Paying with check is especially helpful in this manner, as you can call your bank and stop payment on the check if you notice the problem quickly enough.

For smaller transactions, it’s usually safe to pay with cash, and many legitimate sellers may even find it unusual or refuse anyone who wishes otherwise. A general rule of thumb is to think twice about any transaction in cash if you’re not okay with that sum of cash going up in thin air if something goes wrong.

  1. Don’t give out any more personal information than required. If a far away renter or car seller asks for your social security number, bank account number, or other sensitive information, refuse. This may seem intuitive, but many people mindlessly fill out forms every year, giving out this information without second thought. Stop and think whether you know you’re engaging in a secure transaction whenever filling out a long form.
  1. Make sure to get proper documentation before completing large transactions. For example, stolen cars have turned up for sale on the internet mere days after being stolen. If you’re buying a car or motorcycle, make sure the seller has the bill of sale and it’s in their name; you can ask for their driver’s license to ensure this. Be wary of any seller that refuses to authenticate their goods or services.

Heartbleed: a pervasive security bug

Time to change your passwords!

Heartbleed, a security bug, allows people to steal information normally protected by the SSL/TLS encryption used to keep information on the Internet private. Normally, “https://” at the beginning of a web address indicates that the information that you are entering into that web page will be secure because of this SSL/TLS encryption. However, Heartbleed allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of systems protected by certain vulnerable versions of SSL/TLS software.

Although many websites have fixed this vulnerability, it’s still better to be safe and change your passwords in case they were compromised. For more information on this, see CNet’s gaggle of posts. You can test to see if a website has fixed this vulnerability by using this online tool.

The White House View on Information Privacy and Big Data

The White House has begun to look into what companies do with consumer information and recently completed a report on big data. The report looks at the use of information both by companies and the government. It analyzes areas including education, healthcare, advertising, law enforcement privacy law, and discrimination. The full 85 page report can be found at: The White House’s View on Information Privacy and Big Data.

The report includes a number of policy suggestions which contain a combination of technological and legal solutions to the issues raised by big data. The six recommendations from the report are:

  1. Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The Department of Commerce should take appropriate consultative steps to seek stakeholder and public comment on big data developments and how they impact the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and then devise draft legislative text for consideration by stakeholders and submission by the President to Congress.
  2. Pass National Data Breach Legislation. Congress should pass legislation that provides for a single national data breach standard along the lines of the Administration’s May 2011 Cybersecurity legislative proposal.
  3. Extend Privacy Protections to non-U.S. Persons. The Office of Management and Budget should work with departments and agencies to apply the Privacy Act of 1974 to non-U.S. persons where practicable, or to establish alternative privacy policies that apply appropriate and meaningful protections to personal information regardless of a person’s nationality.
  4. Ensure Data Collected on Students in School is Used for Educational Purposes. The federal government must ensure that privacy regulations protect students against having their data being shared or used inappropriately, especially when the data is gathered in an educational context.
  5. Expand Technical Expertise to Stop Discrimination. The federal government’s lead civil rights and consumer protection agencies should expand their technical expertise to be able to identify practices and outcomes facilitated by big data analytics that have a discriminatory impact on protected classes, and develop a plan for investigating and resolving violations of law.
  6. Amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Congress should amend ECPA to ensure the standard of protection for online, digital content is consistent with that afforded in the physical world—including by removing archaic distinctions between email left unread or over a certain age.


If you are interested in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights mentioned in the first suggestion, it can be found at the following link:

As the report points out, consumers deserve more transparency about how their data is shared. Here are two links to learn about what companies know and have been doing with consumer information:

This webpage contains a report compiled by the World Privacy Forum describing different ways companies are creating scores about consumers. For example, one company is able to use information it knows to predict how likely it is a person will take their medications as ordered by a doctor. Another is the consumer profitability score, used to predict how much money a company can make off of you.

This webpage contains a number of articles by the Wall Street Journal about what companies and the government know about you.

Resources to give you more control over your online information

There are a number of resources that can give you control over what information you share over the internet. I have divided some of the ones I like into several categories including, tracking blockers, computer cleaners, and encryption.

Tracking blockers

There are a number of add-ons to your browser that will block trackers or give you control over what information you share. Some of my favorites are:


Do Not Track Plus


NoScript is probably the most powerful of the tools listed here. It will block all scripts from running on your browser without your consent. Not only will this stop trackers but it will also stop scripts, without you giving consent, such as ones that open popup windows or play flash videos.

Cleaning trackers

If you already have trackers on your computer, you can clean them with free programs. One good example is:

CCleaner found at:

Search engines that do not track

Search engines generally track you online. However, here are a few that do not:

Start Page

Duck Duck Go

Anonymity online through encryption

If these other protections are not enough and you want stronger anonymity online, you can use TOR. TOR is an encryption program that routes all of your online activity through three different random computers on its network. That, combined with very strong encryption, means that no one computer knows who you are and what you are doing on the internet. It can be downloaded at:

Other Tips

Social Networking sites, such as Facebook, are some of the worst trackers on the internet. If you are worried about tracking, you should access social networking sites in a different browser.

Play with the privacy settings in your browser. Not all tracking is bad and some of it is beneficial. Play with the settings so you can set them to protect the information you want while still maintaining the functionality you want.

How to Protect Yourself Online

The Internet: a place to shop, a social network, and vast resource of information. Yet also a place filed with malware and people potentially trying to take advantage of you or steal your information. Like a crowded metropolis, the Internet has many benefits as well as potential harms. Internet users need to be like savvy city-dwellers and avoid dark alleys late at night. Here are some easy ways to ensure you avoid the dangers of the Internet.

Install Security Software: Before connecting to the Internet, make sure that the information on your computer is safe by installing security software and enabling the software already installed in your computer.

Macintosh “Mac” Users (Apple Products using Mac OS X):

Make sure your firewall is active to prevent unwanted information from entering your computer. Click on the apple icon at the top left of your screen. From the drop down menu, select System Preferences. Click on Security and Privacy. Click on the Firewall tab at the top. Make sure the firewall is set to “on.” For more detailed information, please see this tutorial.

Encrypt your hard drive information using FireVault. While you’re in the Security and Privacy section, click on the FireVault tab at the top. Click on the button Turn on FireVault. For more information, read this tutorial.

Prevent Sharing. Back at the System Preferences menu, click on the Sharing icon. Make sure that “on” is not checked for any of the options. For more detailed information, look at this tutorial.

Mac users don’t need additional security software for home computer use.

Windows Users (Applies to Window 7):

Make sure your firewall is on to prevent unwanted information from entering your computer. Click on the start button, then click Control Panel. In the search box, type in “firewall,” then click on Windows Firewall. In the left window, click Turn Firewall On. If prompted for an Administrator password, enter it. For more detailed information, read this tutorial.

Many Windows computer come with security software installed. If your computer does not, install and periodically update security software to protect your computer from viruses and other threats. For more information on specific security software that work with different versions of Windows, read this article.

Modify your Browser Settings: Keep your browsers up to date! Security updates are included in browser software updates. When entering financial information or other personally identifying information such as your social security number, make sure that the web address you are visiting begins with https:// to ensure your information is protected. Regularly delete cookies and your browsing history. Additionally, you can modify your browser settings to prevent data collectors from collecting information on you through cookies, prevent phishing, and protect your computer from malware. Taking these extra steps will help protect your privacy!

Mozilla Firefox: This post explains how to change the relevant settings to ensure your privacy.

Safari: This post explains how to change the relevant settings.

Google Chrome: This post explains how to change the relevant settings to ensure your privacy.

Internet Explorer: Delete cookies by following this tutorial and change your security settings after reading through this post.

Use Pop-up Blockers: Pop-up ads are windows that automatically appear without your permission. Some appear above the window you are currently using; others appear below the window that you are currently using. Your web browser may have settings that prevent these pop-ups.

Mozilla Firefox has a pop-up blocker included.

Safari’s settings can be changed to block pop-ups.

Google Chrome’s settings will block or allow pop-ups.

Internet Explorer’s most recent version automatically blocks pop-ups.

Browse Privately: Private Browsing allows you to browse the Internet without your browser saving any information on the websites that you visited.

Choose to Privately Browse in Mozilla Firefox.

Select Private Browsing in Safari.

Use Incognito Mode in Google Chrome.

Enabling InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer.

Create Strong Passwords: Strong passwords will protect your social media accounts, email accounts, and any accounts you use for online shopping. Avoid common passwords like “god,” “love,” “password,” “letmein,” and consecutive numbers like “1234.” Don’t use common dates like your birthday, anniversary, address, or children’s birthdays. Do use combinations of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Substitute numbers for letters, such as “kr0yw3n” for “kroywen.”  Do use phrases rather than single words, for example “blueball00nsareb3st.” Check your current password strength!

Click Smart: Familiarize yourself with common Internet scams! The Federal Trade Commission offers great tips on computer security and a blog full of information for consumers.