PROOS: Is your personal information secure?

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month — a time to remind us of the steps we can take to protect our critical information in today’s digital age.

The internet has increased convenience for consumers and enhanced our ability to communicate with friends around the world. Unfortunately, it also has expanded the reach of criminals looking to take your money or steal your identity.

According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, Michigan residents and businesses have lost more than $36 million to cybercriminal activities so far this year, with an average victim loss of over $6,000.

Identity theft wreaks havoc on millions of lives every year — impacting victims with legal fees and hours of their time spent trying to clear their name. To help people protect themselves, I sponsored legislation that was signed in 2013 to require all three major credit reporting agencies to allow Michigan residents to place a security freeze on their credit information.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has a consumer alert, Credit Freeze; Fraud Alert; & Credit Monitoring, available online to help residents understand the different protection measures they can take. It is one of many useful alerts that can be viewed at michigan.gov/ag under the Resources tab.

To help make the internet safer and more secure for everyone, the National Cyber Security Alliance offers easy-to-use resources at StaySafeOnline.org. The mobile-friendly site is designed to be a one-stop shop for online safety awareness and education.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also offers the Stop. Think. Connect. Toolkit featuring simple, actionable advice for everyone from students and parents to small business owners and older Americans. Learn more about the national public awareness campaign at dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.

Cybercriminals are becoming more bold and clever. I urge all southwest Michigan families to look out for identity thieves and to take steps to protect your personal information online.

JOHN PROOS, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties. 

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