We’re so pleased to be partnering with our sponsorĀ Capital OneĀ to help celebrateĀ National Consumer Protection Week. We’ll be sharing cool, smart surfing tips on how to keep you and your family’s online privacy as safeĀ 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’veĀ written about it before and we’ll say it again–be sure to check your Facebook privacyĀ settings on a regular basis. With so many frequent updates, it can beĀ difficult to keep up with who’s seeing what. In other words, justĀ because you’ve got “private” checked, it doesn’t necessarily mean yourĀ info is on lockdown. Be sure to take a few minutes every week or so toĀ flip through your profile to make sure you’re not sharing your phoneĀ number and all your embarrassing high school photos with more than justĀ your “friends.”

2. Learn about cookies. The no calorie kind.

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

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

3. Going phishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

[photo courtesy of Shutter Sisters]