We’re so pleased to be partnering with our sponsor Capital One to help celebrate National Consumer Protection Week. We’ll be sharing cool, smart surfing tips on how to keep you and your family’s online privacy as safe as you can.

Now we love social networks, internet surfing and web shopping as much as the next mom, but as more of our time is spent in the cloud, we’re increasingly concerned about the information we’re sharing and how to protect our privacy. Lately, it’s been hard to tell what’s legit and what’s a big fat scam, and with our kids entering the online world too, it’s more important than ever to make sure we’ve got our personal information under a virtual lock and key.

We’ve put together 5 smart tips to help you keep your information private, especially if you’ve got kids in the house.

1. Keep an eye on those Facebook settings

We’ve written about it before and we’ll say it again–be sure to check your Facebook privacy settings on a regular basis. With so many frequent updates, it can be difficult to keep up with who’s seeing what. In other words, just because you’ve got “private” checked, it doesn’t necessarily mean your info is on lockdown. Be sure to take a few minutes every week or so to flip through your profile to make sure you’re not sharing your phone number and all your embarrassing high school photos with more than just your “friends.”

2. Learn about cookies. The no calorie kind.

Cookies are little bits of info that get stored on your computer from various websites–stuff like passwords, preferences, or your shopping cart. (Yay shopping carts!) They’re actually a good thing, and save you time when you return to favorite sites. But if you want to be sure they’re only being used by trusted sites, and not by less scrupulous folks, you want to enable cookie alerts through your browser. In addition, you can arrange your settings so the cookies are only stored for a limited time.

You can also be sure your info is safe and encrypted when there’s an https:// at the beginning of a website URL–probably what you’re used to seeing when you do online banking.

3. Going phishing

It seems that phishing scams are on the uptick these days, and even the most savvy of online users can be fooled by sophisticated but fraudulent emails or websites that want access to your personal info. If an email or website asks you to share personal information (including account, social security, or birthdate) as part of a survey, delete immediately. You can also use SurveyPolice.com to help check on the legitimacy of any website. Plus you can report phishing scams to most financial institutions and large ecommerce sites to help them shut them down.

4. Give a second thought to public Wi-Fi.

A recent New York Times article confirmed that public Wi-Fi makes it super easy for your personal information to be hacked. Yikes. Check your favorite blogs if you must (hello!) from the coffee shop, but it might be best to wait until you get home to check your bank account status or make purchases. If you have to check email or log in to any accounts, your best bet is to be sure to log out when you’re done. That latte and quick internet check shouldn’t cost you thousands of dollars.

5. Start talking to your kids about this stuff. Early.

Even if your kids are just hopping on the Internet to play educational games under strict supervision, it’s important that they understand the basic rules of safe Internet navigation, the same way they understand the basic rules of strangers on the street. Make sure it’s clear that they never share any type of personal information with anyone, and if they’re uncomfortable or unsure about a particular situation, they should come get you immediately. It’s never too soon to have a conversation about safety, online or off.

Capital One
For more helpful tips, make sure to visit the very helpful National Consumer Protection Week website  and check our sponsor Capital One and their helpful ID Theft and Fraud Prevention guide they’ve created with national consumer advocacy group Consumer Action. And follow them on Twitter where they focus on providing helpful financial education for families.

[photo courtesy of Shutter Sisters]