BBB Advice

by Danielle Kane

For many consumers, springtime signifies the time for cleaning. Scrubbing and sweeping your house is an important part of maintaining a clean home. But what about maintaining a clean machine? Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific is sharing tips on how to “spring clean” your computers and mobile devices to protect against online scams and identity theft.

Participating in a digital declutter is critical as cyberattacks increase and hackers become more sophisticated. Data breaches impact millions of consumers each time they occur — the 2017 Equifax data breach alone affected 148 million Americans. And, unfortunately, the National Cyber Security Alliance says consumers are not doing enough to guard their personally identifiable information.

In 2018, online scams were ranked the top reported scam in Oregon, with 205 victims filing a BBB Scam Tracker Report. BBB’s 2018 Risk Report showed that online scams were up 124% from 2017 — a total of 10,450 reports for online scams were filed nationally last year.

Ensuring you don’t fall prey to various online scams has as much to do with awareness as it does with how well guarded your devices are. Here are several tips BBB NW+P advocates consumers follow for a digital refresh:

• Declutter mobile phones — Delete unused apps and keep others current by updating them as needed. Apps collect data on you and your behavior, so get rid of those you’re not using that could be sharing your information. Also be sure to actively manage location services, microphone usage and access to camera/photos on all apps.

• Do a file purge — Take a look at your records and delete those you don’t need. This can also include cleaning up your email inboxes and backing up your most important documents onto a secure cloud site or external hard-drive.

• Empty trash bins — Simply deleting and emptying the trash or recycle bin on your computer is not enough to get rid of a file. To permanently delete, consider getting a program that “wipes” those files from your devices and then overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information for an added layer of security.

• Safely dispose of old technology — This goes beyond cells phones and computers to include USBs, external hard drives, wearables and printers, all of which contain your personal information. Once you’re completely done with a device and have backed up the information you need, “shred” the device with a trusted electronic shredding company.

For more information, head to bbb.org/cybersecurity.

— Danielle Kane is the Better Business Bureau marketplace manager for Portland. She can be reached at danielle.kane@thebbb.org .

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