IMPORTANT NOTICE:

January was a cold month with extended hours and days of low temperatures. These conditions drive up our usage and monthly bills. For details on your usage by day along with corresponding temperatures, login to the free SmartHub app or call us at 800.223.4832.

Keeping your personal information secure online might seem like a difficult task, thanks in part to nearly constant news of breaches, bugs and hacks. However, you can boost your online security and decrease the likelihood that a malicious hacker will steal your private data. The key: be skeptical. Bring the same skepticism you’d bring in the brick-and-mortar world to your experiences online.

You wouldn’t provide your credit card number, Social Security number or mother’s maiden name to a stranger on the street. Don’t do it online. Only provide it to trusted sources on secure websites. Look for “https” or a padlock symbol in the address bar.

• If you receive an email claiming to be from a known entity, like your bank or credit card company, that asks you to click through to log in to your account, don’t. Instead, go directly to the site by typing the known URL into the address bar. You also can call the number on your credit card or contact the company through its official website to inquire about the email.

• Don’t use your debit card when shopping online because it could give thieves direct access to your checking and savings accounts. Instead, use a credit card with consumer protections. Even better, use only one card for all your online purchases to further reduce the risk of exposure.

• Don’t overshare. Social media can be a fun way to share the events of our lives, but some things people post publicly on social media can compromise safety online and offline. For example, your birthdate is key information to accessing many accounts. If you want to share your birthday online, consider not sharing the year.

• When setting up challenge questions to access an account, don’t use real responses to questions like your mother’s maiden name, your favorite pet, the street where you grew up or your favorite sports teams—other people may be able to guess your answers and access your account. The best approach is to pick nonfactual responses. For example: “Favorite pet? Abraham Lincoln.”

• Arm yourself by securing your wireless network—and all devices—with strong passcodes that use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Some security experts suggest creating a sentence with personal meaning from which you can create an acronym. • Change your passwords at least every six months—especially on financial and other sensitive accounts.

• When using public wireless networks, use only those that are secure. If you must use an unsecured network, do not conduct financial transactions.

• Keep important documents like medical records and tax returns on an external hard drive that isn’t connected to the Internet; plug into it only when you must access those documents.

• Keep information safe offline, too. Securely shred bills, financial statements, prescription labels, health information, receipts and similar documents you do not need or want to keep. The personal information in these paper documents could compromise your identity both online and offline.

• Before donating old electronics to charity or taking them to your local e-recycler, delete all the data that’s saved on them. Instructions and apps exist to walk you through wiping your electronics clean of all traces of you. It’s an important part of keeping your personal information and online identity out of the hands of strangers.

Did you know that GVEC.net offers a variety of Internet service plans to meet differing budgets and needs? In addition to high-speed wireless plans, Fiber to the Home plans are also available in select areas in Guadalupe and Wilson Counties. Call us at 800.699.4832 to check availability. Find us at www.gvec.net.

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