Four Ways to Protect Your Privacy

Changes in privacy regulation often get attention in the mass media, but not clarity. Although the headlines are designed to illicit a wide range of emotional responses, the details about the actual impact of the privacy legislation are often woefully lacking.

Although it’s always worthwhile to ask yourself how the changing winds of privacy regulation impact you, your family and your business, a more important question to ask yourself is this: What am I doing to ensure my privacy so that changing regulations won’t impact me?

Online privacy is and will remain an issue here in the United States and around the world. There are some countries that regulate the privacy of their citizens’ data to the point where there are prohibitions limiting certain types of private data from leaving a country’s geographic borders. Although the intent of the legislation is often commendable, it’s pretty much impossible to stop a piece of data from crossing a specific geographic boundary.

No matter the intent of any legislation that may have been passed or that will be passed, and no matter what a specific piece of legislation from a country or collection of countries dictates, you are the only one who can truly control what happens to the privacy of your information—but only if you really want to. None of the solutions are easy, but they can help ensure your privacy.

Here are some steps that you can take to get your privacy back under your control.

  • Want to secure the information you send and receive as it is transmitted online and stop the ISPs from accessing that info? Try Opera VPNfor computers and mobile devices.
  • Looking to anonymize your web browsing? Give Tora try.
  • Want to stop advertisers from tracking you on each site you visit? Install the browser extension Privacy Badger.
  • Want to use a search engine that doesn’t track your searches and associate the results with you? Visit DuckDuckGo.

Using some of these privacy-enhancing tools might force you to make changes to your browsing habits, but some are less invasive to your browsing style than others. Try the tools out to see which ones work best for you, and take back your privacy from those that wish to profit from collecting and monetizing your past.

By Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner


Internet scams: What they are and how to avoid them

As your internet service provider, EarthLink is committed to keeping you informed of security events to protect your digital life.  Below our partner Symantec shares information for how to spot online scareware scams.   




Written by Kim Porter for Symantec

Cyberthieves can use the internet as a tool to rip off unsuspecting victims. Internet scams come in many forms, including emails that attempt to trick you into handing out financial information, pop-ups loaded with malware, and social media messages crafted to spark fake romantic relationships.

The number of complaints of internet crimes jumped 17 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

What can you do to lower your potential exposure to internet scams? It helps to learn what to look for. Here’s what you need to know about internet scams and some steps you can take to help protect yourself.

What are internet scams?

Internet scams continue to evolve, and can vary widely. The term generally refers to someone using internet services or software to defraud or take advantage of victims, typically for financial gain.

Cybercriminals may contact potential victims through personal or work email accounts, social networking sites, dating apps, or other methods in attempts to obtain financial or other valuable personal information.

Many successful internet scams have similar endings: Victims either lose their own money or fail to receive funds the fraudster promised.

Internet scam stats to consider

As noted in the agency’s Internet Crime Report, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center received 351,936 complaints of internet crimes in 2018, with losses exceeding $2.7 billion.

Anyone who uses an internet-enabled device could fall prey to an internet scam, but millennials may be more vulnerable to losing money, according to a 2017 Federal Trade Commission report.

Among people aged 20-29 who reported fraud, nearly 40 percent reported losing money. That compares with 18 percent of people 70 or older who reported losing money due to fraud. But people 80 and over tended to lose more money — the median reported loss was $1,092 compared to $400 for 20- to 29-year-olds.

11 internet scam types

Criminals have devised dozens of ways to deceive victims through the internet. Here are 11 of the more common types of scams.

Romance scam

Online dating can be a good way to connect with potential romantic partners, but cybercriminals have started using this method in attempts to defraud unsuspecting victims. Here’s how the scam works.

The fraudster usually strikes up a conversation on an online dating site and begins an online relationship — but always comes up with reasons why he or she can’t meet up in person.

Once the fraudster has gained the victim’s trust, they’ll ask for money or details about the victim’s financial life. Victims of romance scams collectively lost more than $362 million in 2018.

What to do? If you start an online relationship with someone, help protect yourself by asking a lot of questions. Take the relationship slowly and never give financial information or money to someone you don’t know personally.

The overpayment scam

The transaction might seem legitimate at first. Someone responds to your online advertisement and arranges to pay for an item you’re selling.

But the buyer invents a reason for sending you much more than the purchase price, then asks you to wire back the difference before the money clears your bank account.

After you’ve paid back the difference, it becomes clear the transferred money was fake — and you’re out the cash you gave the scammer.

Be cautious. If someone sends you a lot more money than you’re owed, it may be a scam. Don’t refund any money until the transfer is in your account. If you’re truly suspicious, you can also cancel the whole transaction and report this issue to the platform where you’ve listed the online advertisement.

Quick-money promise

This scam might start out as a phone call, LinkedIn message, or unsolicited email that advertises a job requiring little to no real work, but offering lots of fast cash.

Criminals who practice this scam often target people looking for a new job or wanting to work from home. But once you secure the job, you’re asked to fill out routine paperwork to provide your Social Security number, address, and bank information, seemingly for direct deposit of your paycheck. The fraudsters can use this personal information to access your financial accounts.

But there’s more. In some cases, you may unknowingly take part in a money-laundering scheme in your new role.

The lesson? When job hunting, use well-known, reputable job sites, research the employer, and avoid applying for positions that seem too good to be true.

Facebook impersonation scam

Facebook users may sometimes encounter scams. In one of the more recent examples, a fraudster copies the name, profile picture, and basic information from a real account to create a second, nearly identical account on Facebook.

Next, the scammer sends friend requests to the original account’s friend list in an attempt to access the personal information of the unsuspecting friends who grant access to their profiles.

If you get a friend request from someone who should already be on your friend list, search for their account. If you find two nearly identical accounts, it’s likely a sign that one of the accounts is fake.

Report the cloned account to Facebook, and consider alerting your friend in real life or on the phone so it’s clear who you’re talking to.

Tip: In cases where you believe your account was hacked, first change your password or contact Facebook to investigate.

Fake shopping websites

Using sophisticated designs and layouts, cyberthieves may create and publish fake retailer websites that either look genuine or that replicate existing retailer websites.

The bogus shopping sites might offer deals that are too good to be true, For instance, you might find popular brands of clothing and expensive electronics at extra-low prices.

And what if you buy? You may either receive the item and find out it’s fake, or you may receive nothing at all.

If you think you’ve found a fake shopping website, don’t spend money there. Instead, report the website to the the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Phishing scams

Phishing is a common scam, and one that collectively cost victims over $48 million in 2018, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center Report. Here’s how it works.

A fraudster will send you an email message that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank, social networking site, or online store, for example. The message attempts to deceive you into providing valuable and sensitive personal data, such as passwords, credit card numbers and bank account information.

For instance, you might be directed to a website that looks legitimate, but was set up only to capture your information.

The fraudulent emails are usually written in an urgent tone. Often, they contain red flags such as misspellings, poor grammar, making urgent demands with threats of financial consequences, and logos that don’t quite look right.

If you’re unsure whether an email is legitimate or not, go directly to the company’s official website in a different tab — without clicking on links within the suspicious email.

As a rule, never click on links from these emails, reply to the emails, attempt to unsubscribe, or give out personal information.

Unexpected prize scam

This type of scam falls under the phishing category. The email may claim you’ve won a large chunk of cash, a free trip to an exotic destination, or some other fantastic prize. In order to claim your trip or winnings, the message will say, you only need to pay a few small fees.

After you pay those fees, you never hear from the organization again.

Some travel scams may send you to the destination, but they’ve hidden a lot of important expenses such as visa fees, transportation costs, or meals.

The adage applies: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t respond to the message.

The Nigerian letter scam

In this scam, perhaps one of the longest-running internet frauds, you’ll receive an emotional message from someone claiming to be an official government employee, businessman, or member of a abundantly wealthy foreign family asking you to help them retrieve a large sum of money from an overseas bank.

In exchange, the person promises to give you some of the money. They may even produce fake paperwork that makes the deal look legitimate.

It’s best to ignore these messages or report them to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Exortion or threat or “hitman” scam

In another type of scam, the cybercriminal may threaten to embarrass or injure you or a family member unless a ransom is paid.

The scammer may have gathered details about your life from social media profiles, which could make the claim seem more legitimate or urgent.

If you receive one of these messages, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and your local law enforcement.

Malware and ransomware scams

For cybercriminals, the first step in several types of scams is installing malware — short for “malicious software” — on a victim’s device. How? Criminals have a variety of deceptive ways to do this.

For instance, the perpetrator may send you a pop-up message for fake antivirus software, a link to a news article, or an email that looks like it’s from your bank.

Clicking on the message or the embedded link triggers the installation of malware, which can be designed to scan your device for personal and banking information, log your keystrokes, lock you out of your device, access your webcam, or even destroy your files in the process.

Ransomware is a related form of malware that’s delivered through phishing emails. Once the malware is installed on a device, the victim’s files are encrypted, and the cybercriminal demands a ransom payment, typically in a virtual currency such as bitcoin.

The criminal promises to release the victim’s files once the money is received, but often that doesn’t happen.

The tech support online scam

These types of scams can be related to or stem from malware infections. Fraudsters use urgent pop-up messages or fake online ads to promote software services.

When you contact them, they’ll say you have a serious problem with your computer and will offer tech support services you don’t need (because the problem doesn’t exist). They may also install malware on your device to gain access to your financial details.

You may be able to tell it’s a scam from the company’s choice of payment methods. For example, money sent via wire transfer, loaded on gift cards and prepaid cards, or transferred through an app like PayPal are hard to reverse.

If the company seems suspicious and only takes these types of payments, don’t do business with them and consider reporting the company to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

How can I protect myself against internet scams?

File a complaint

You can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is the central point for tracking patterns of fraud and abuse related to internet crimes.

The center reviews complaints, analyzes data, and creates intelligence reports that highlight emerging threats and new trends. Knowing how internet crimes work helps people understand the dangers involved and identify the fraud before falling prey to it.

The center may forward certain investigations to appropriate law enforcement agencies, which may bring legal action against the perpetrators.

After you file the report, the Center recommends keeping any copies of evidence related to your complaint, such as canceled checks, receipts, emails or chat transcriptions. These may help the FBI investigate widespread crimes.

Set up multilayered security features

Some online accounts offer an extra layer of security known as multifactor authentication (also called two-factor authentication). This requires two or more credentials when you log in to an account.

For instance, this can be a combination of a password plus something you have (such as an additional passcode sent to your phone) or something you are (such as fingerprint or facial recognition).

So if a scammer does get your username and password, multifactor authentication makes it harder to log in to your accounts.

Don’t respond to scam messages

A response could lead to various consequences, such as triggering a malware installation or confirming your phone number or email address are working.

Instead, make a copy of records that may help investigators and delete other emails, texts and social media messages that look and sound like a scam.

Don’t click on links, open attachments, reply to the message, attempt to unsubscribe, or call any telephone number listed in suspicious messages. And don’t give out any money, credit card details, or other personal details.

Install antivirus software

Antivirus, or security software is designed to prevent malware from embedding on your computer or device. If the software detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm or remove it.

This could help protect your devices if you accidentally click a dangerous link. The antivirus software can fight the malware and safeguard your files.

Always be sure you download software apps and services only from official vendor sites.

Back up your data

It’s a good idea to regularly make copies of your data in case it’s compromised in a malware attack. The backups should be copied to an external hard drive or cloud storage and not your home network.

Back up the data on all your devices, including your smartphone.

Don’t trust unsolicited phone calls or emails

If someone calls or emails claiming to be a tech expert, don’t accept help, give out personal or financial information, or allow them to remotely access your computer.

Instead, ask for proof of identity and research the company.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Norton LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.


Norton by Symantec is now Norton LifeLock. LifeLock™ identity theft protection is not available in all countries.

Copyright © 2019 Symantec Corporation. All rights reserved. Symantec, the Symantec logo, the Checkmark logo, Norton, Norton by Symantec, LifeLock and the LockMan logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Symantec Corporation or its affiliates in the United States and other countries. Firefox is a trademark of Mozilla Foundation. Android, Google Chrome, Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google, LLC. Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the United States and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Microsoft and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The Android robot is reproduced or modified from work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Licence. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Cyberbullying: What Kids Experience & What Adults Need To Know About It



By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner


As a parent, watching your child struggle is extremely difficult. You want to intervene and make things better. Yet, parents are often cautioned to step back and let the child sort through the challenge, build resilience and solve the problem. While this is worthwhile strategy, when it comes to cyberbullying, it’s not always the best advice.


Why? Because the playing field for today’s kids is very different than for past generations.


When a child of yesterday had a challenge with a person or a group of friends, or even with school in general, when the school day ended or summer break started, that child would exit the situation, go home, hopefully to a supportive environment, or engage in an out-of-school activity --  and either strategy would bolster the child. The break would be an escape, a breather from whatever negativity was hurting him or her, and an opportunity to regroup and then try again. Surely, this, even back then, was not the panacea for solving all problems – but it did help many, many kids get through awkward growing up experiences.


Today’s children, thanks to being wired 24/7, literally have no such escape. Out of school, even at home or out of town, they can receive relentless continued attacks, on social media, by text, by email, in games, and even in Google Docs! They can also witness firsthand how they are being left out by watching social media posts. They can experience isolation and cruelty in a nonstop cycle – often without an adult being aware of the problem.


Your child’s digital world can be a dangerous playground. There they can experience genuine hurt that shapes how they see themselves and how they grow into an adult. When a parent witnesses a child that is broken down, with no self-confidence, who wants to fit in and can't find a way to do so, who blames him or herself for not being normal, and who lashes out with misbehavior, it’s very painful and can have tragic outcomes.


It’s worth taking a moment to try and define what cyberbullying is and is not. Cyberbullying is not social drama, an argument, mean gossip, an impulsive expression of anger or a prank that fell short. No doubt, your child can be hurt by these actions. Rather, cyberbullying is a more serious form of aggression, typically targeted and repeated behaviors that are shared widely, sometimes virally, sometimes by anonymous posters. True cyberbullying reflects a real or perceived power imbalance that’s physical, psychological and/or social -- with a connection to real life – typically your child’s school life.


Whether what your child is experiencing is actual cyberbullying -- or not -- is not the measure of when you, as a parent, need to step in. If your child is experiencing any negativity online, feels isolated and unworthy – you need to be aware of that – and step in to support your child, before anything escalates.


Parents and grandparents of a child who is active online, here’s what you can do to help:


  • Get involved and stay involved in your young person’s digital life. You need to be aware of who they are communicating with and the content of the communications – on every single device, platform and app used by your child. Whether this is via a parental control tool that helps you identify problematic behavior, by accessing your child’s phone and social media accounts to explore recent activity or by regular conversation does not matter. What matters is inserting yourself into your child’s digital life so that you can understand what they are experiencing online.


  • Listen to your child. While your child may be resistant to sharing, you need to be steadfast in letting your child know that you are there and that you have his or her back. This means being a resource to your child – not so much with advice or suggestions, and especially not with anger and frustration – but as a caring, sounding board to hear your child’s struggle. By persistently being there, even when they refuse to talk, by being curious and asking questions, they will come to know that they can talk it out with you – and understand that in no possible reality are they alone, unworthy or unloved.


  • Promote adventures off the screen. Seeking out activities that are not in a digital world can remind your child that life is lived off a screen. Challenge your child to experience different places and people to broaden his or her perspective and to cultivate empathy for others. Show your child how to take the time to put down the phone, to see the world through his or her eyes and heart without an Instagram filter.


  • Make new connections offline. While, as parents, we would like to be fixers and show the other kids how great our child is, past the toddler ages, this strategy rarely works. As adults, we can reveal to our children how wide the world is, how possibilities for experiences and connections can be limitless, if we are willing to put the work into trying new things. Making new connections can limit the sting of false friendships.


  • When appropriate, respond with action. Your child may need you to intervene by saving any evidence of bullying that exists. If the bullying is from a child at school, speak with school administration and bring copies of your evidence. If things do get out of hand and the school is not responding, it is time to call the police (and yes, it starts by you calling 911 and report the issue).


You are your child’s advocate and showing up for them – for uncomfortable conversations – will show your child that when they open up about struggles that you are listening and are there for him or her.


Have confidence in your child – and in your parenting. You being there for your child, to listen and to help them, whether they are wronged or when they are in the wrong, is what will get them through growing up in a digital world.


Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.

Social Media & Your Data

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner



While many of us appreciate the idea of privacy, and may even actively try to preserve privacy when online, the reality is that every internet-enabled move we make is tracked, logged, reused, and sold . It’s difficult to understand what devices, apps, games, social media and websites are tracking about our online behaviors. Sure, you could ‘try’ to read the privacy rules for everything you do online, but the reading is incredibly dense, not written for a non-tech person and  - to boot – changes with each and every update. You could make it your full-time job managing privacy settings!

If you are concerned about your privacy on social media sites, here are some tips that can help you understand how they are tracking you online and give you guidance for how you can maximize your privacy.



Everything in your profile  -- because your profiles are always public. Each platform encourages you to personalize your profile, with a photo, your address or geographic area, gender, age, family information, education, employment and more. As much as a detailed profile can make you look interesting, you have to ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing all of this PRIVATE information with any stranger in the world with an internet connection! For some sites, status updates may also be public. This means that your ‘relaxing on the beach’ update may actually be an invitation to have your home visited while you are away -- by criminals! Oh, and all your Venmo payments are public (unless you changed your privacy settings from their default). Even paying for good and service is social now!

Where you are right now. Your real-time location may be being broadcast this very minute, as public information or to contacts within your network. Ever ‘check-in’ to a local business or event? Unless you want people to know your business 24/7, this may not be the best practice for you. This is especially true if your social media ‘friends’ differ from those in real life. Since we can never know who someone is that we meet online, you may be sharing your location with someone who in reality you would not trust with that degree of personal information.

Any content you share online, from music to photographs to videos and links to other websites. Besides the fact that you may not want broad access to your personal content, advertisers collect this data to learn more about you, so that they can target you with advertising. Hackers also learn more about you from the content that you post, so that they can steal your online identity. Think your security questions to reset your password are secret? Well, they can be gleaned from all you share on social media.

Whatever you post as ‘public.’ This includes your username (so don’t reveal anything about yourself with your username – unless you are an influencer using your own name!) or your posts – if you check them to be public. It’s not just your ‘friends’ who see this data – any stranger, anywhere, will know about your hernia surgery or the birth of your grandchild if your posts or account is set to public.


Even if you lock down the privacy settings in account, there still may be information being shared about you without you controlling the flow.

 Friends and followers can share your content. When they copy and repost your photos and personal information, without your permission, they have bypassed privacy settings and there is little you can do about it.

Third-party applications are watching you and recording your every move. Social media sites and apps grant access to third-party applications and you may not have any knowledge about it! Advertisers buy their way into your data, not necessarily to study your personal posts, but to track your online activity (what sites you visit, what products you look at, and what you put into your shopping cart) and then to provide that information to businesses that, based your interests and behaviors, will tailor advertising just for you. Why do the social media sites do this? Because their revenue model is based on advertising. When advertisers have this incredibly personalized data, they then buy advertising on the social media sites and other platforms. So your free access to social media sites clearly has a price!

Also, be wary of games, quizzes and polls. These may be fun and entertaining but they are also likely generated by third party applications and give access to your public – and potentially private –  information to these entities. Even if you have read your social media sites privacy information, third-party applications may not be required to adhere to these rules. Your social media site will rely on legalese to not take responsibility for the actions of these companies, meaning that, the data they mine may not be stored securely (anyone can hack into it), they may access more information than they ‘need’ to perform their publicly stated function, and they could install malware onto your account to deepen how they track you.

Yes, Big Brother is watching you. Government and law enforcement very typically look to social networks for information regarding illegal activity.  While each site has its own rules for working with law enforcement, and some may be more comforting than others, the reality is that the search for the bad guy can often result in many good guys having private information shared broadly.

Your paycheck is at risk. Current and future employers are absolutely watching what you do online and making employment decisions based on this version of you. While employers are limited by The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as to what information they can get from formal background checks, employers have full reign to gather whatever they can about you from informal internet searches. Be careful what you post and what you comment, even after you are hired. Many employers have social media policies to direct employees how to behave online – and hire companies that monitor online employee activity.



  • Use a unique and strong password – one that you do not use anywhere else. How many times have you heard a friend announce that their social media account was hacked? I bet a lot. I would also bet that these hacked accounts were able to be hacked because this friend was a victim of a security breaches – where their name and password was stolen – and because they reuse passwords, the hacker was able to break-into other of their accounts. Don’t re-use passwords and use a password manager to keep your passwords organized!

Enable strong authentication. Now that you have a good password, choose the option to have a code sent to you when logging in so help prevent someone that may have gotten hold of your password form pretending to be you.

  • When setting up your profile, provide the minimum amount of personal information necessary.
  • Don't set your account or your posts to public and be sure that you know in real life all of your friends and followers.
  • Prune your "friends" list on a regular basis. It's easy to forget who you've connected to over time, and therefore who you are sharing information with.
  • Be careful sharing your birthday, age, or place of birth. This information could be useful to identity thieves and to data mining companies. If you do post your birthday, age or place of birth, restrict who has access to this information using the site’s privacy settings.
  • Use caution when using third-party applications. For the highest level of safety and privacy, avoid them completely. If you consider using one, review the privacy policy and terms of service for the application.
  • Read the social network’s privacy policy (especially if you need help falling asleep at night )– but remember, a social network can change its privacy policy at any time. Content that was posted with restrictive privacy settings may become visible when a privacy policy is altered.

More than anything, it is important to be aware of the information that you are providing on social media sites and to be conscious of the choices you make to protect your privacy. No doubt, you are being watched – but it’s entirely up to you as to what others can learn about you on social media sites!


Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.