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Consumer Reports: How to help protect your privacy online

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Posted at 8:59 AM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 09:59:29-05

(CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF)  — It's really not something you want to ignore. We've all heard stories about, and maybe even know someone whose had their identity stolen, which is why online security is so important.

Jerry Harris, a small business owner who runs a dog- walking service, opened a concerning message from his inbox.

“I received an email from Facebook -- it identified that my account had been locked out,” Harris said.

Jerry learned that his business’s Facebook page had been compromised after a hacker gained access and changed the login.

“The biggest problem of course is that I can no longer control my own business Facebook page,” said Harris.

Jerry says he feels helpless, like an outsider looking in on his own business -- a feeling millions of people experience every year.

“The good news is, there’s a lot of easy steps you can take, and the New Year is a great opportunity to give yourself a fresh start,” said Consumer Reports technology writer, Thomas Germain.

First, Consumer Reports recommends setting up two-factor authentication, something you might already use with online banking and other more secure sites.

“Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of protection and the idea here is if someone gets a hold of your password, they’ll need another piece of information,” said Germain.

Next, guard against phishing, that’s where hackers try to get you to give up information about yourself that could help them steal your identity.

“Avoid clicking on links in texts or emails, especially if there’s something about that message that seems suspicious,” said Germain.

Finally, it’s nearly impossible to remember every password, but there’s an easy solution: use a password manager.

Consumer Reports’ top-rated password managers are 1Password, Keeper, and Bitwarden.

As for Jerry Harris, he plans on setting up a new, more secure Facebook page for his dog-walking business.

“I don’t know how they hacked me, but the reality is, had I put better safeguards in place it wouldn’t have happened,” Harris said.

Here’s some other ways to protect yourself: don't use the same passwords or even the same usernames for different accounts. If you want to take it to the next level, consider using different email addresses for your banking accounts and your social media accounts.