Take time to keep your digital devices clean, organized and free of unnecessary data

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Warmer temperatures might motivate you to do spring cleaning around the house this month, but did you know April is Digital Spring-Cleaning Month?

Taking a few minutes this month to keep your devices clean, organized and free of unnecessary data can help keep you safe from viruses, spyware and identity theft.

BBB ScamTracker℠ received more than 1,000 tech support scam reports last year. In many of these reports, consumers allowed scammers posing as common tech support companies to access their computer for repairs. The scammers then installed spyware or malware, compromising the consumers’ financial information or other personal data or claiming they needed money for more repairs.

A consumer in March gave remote access to scammers posing as YouTube TV customer service to his device to fix an issue. When the scammers asked for his Zelle information and other credit card information, he realized something wasn’t right. The scammers accessed his PayPal account and the credit card associated with his YouTube TV account, and he lost $100, which he is disputing.

No one is immune to spyware or viruses, but regular digital cleanups and being aware of common tech scams can help you keep your devices safe, virus-free and running optimally.

BBB’s tips for digital spring cleaning:

  • Protect your computer. Use antivirus software to protect your computer and its content from viruses, spyware and hackers. Be wary of unsolicited customer support emails and popups. Before giving a customer support representative remote access to your computer, verify the representative is who they say they are and not a fraudulent lookalike.
  • Clean up old files. Go through all installed software on your computer and uninstall programs you no longer need. Do the same with documents and other files. Empty your computer’s trash can when you’re done.
  • Install the most recent updates. Installing new operating systems and software as soon as they become available keeps your computer secure and helps it run faster. Your computer should inform you of important updates, but you can check your settings to make sure you have the most recent updates installed. Search for updates for accessories like printers and routers by going to the support area of those devices’ websites and searching for “firmware update.”
  • Don’t forget your phone. The same goes for mobile devices. Consider deleting any apps you don’t regularly use. Check your phone’s settings menu to see if the most recent updates are installed.
  • Back up your important files. It’s wise to store copies of your important files (irreplaceable photos, documents, etc.) somewhere other than your desktop, in case a fire, power surge or virus damages your computer. Use the 3-2-1 rule: three backup copies, two different media types and one offline in a separate location.
  • Lock down your logins. Make sure all of your passwords are secure. You may want to consider updating all your passwords on an annual basis. Using two-factor authentication when available adds an extra layer of security.
  • Clear out unused accounts. Check your social media and other accounts, and consider closing any you don’t use. Check the privacy settings on each account to make sure they’re set to your preference.

Don O’Brien is the regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at dobrien@quincybbb.org or (217) 209-3972.

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