October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) and between data breaches, cloud storage privacy issues, and bugs compromising personal passwords, identity theft protection is on the forefront of many people’s mind.

This year, Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin is partnering with National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) to promote the “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.” campaign. STOP. THINK. CONNECT. is an online awareness campaign that offers advice for all internet users to stay safe and secure. Click the image below to view BBB's video press release.

Cybercrime comes in many forms—online identity theft, financial fraud, hacking, email spoofing, information forgery, and intellectual property crime. It can wreak havoc on victims’ lives and at its worst, cybercrime can lead to financial ruin. American consumers reported losing over $1.6 billion to fraud overall in 2013, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s annual report.

BBB encourages you to take these extra security measures to protect yourself against identity theft and other cybercrimes during National Cyber Security Month:

Keep a clean machine. Whether it is a PC, mobile device or laptop, make sure security software is current and up-to-date. Having the latest software on all devices can be one of the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.

Protect personal information. Shred all statements and applications you get in the mail that you don’t want to keep, including credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, and billing statements for utilities and phone service.

Change passwords for all online accounts regularly. When changing your password, make it long, strong and unique, with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. By keeping various passwords on your accounts you lessen the risk of multiple accounts being compromised.

Connect with care. Use caution when logging on to public Wi-Fi hotspots and send personal information only to websites that are fully encrypted.

Stay current. Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online. Check trusted websites for the latest information, and share with friends, family and colleagues to encourage them to be web-wise. You can find your BBB on Facebook or Twitter for the latest scam alerts and information. You can also find helpful consumer information and tips at watchyourbuck.com.

Steer clear of suspicious texts, emails and links. Unsolicited emails and pop-up ads can be full of computer viruses designed to steal usernames and passwords from your computer. Don’t give in to curiosity. Close or delete the message.

Report it. If your identity has been stolen or compromised, contact one of the three credit bureaus to report the crime (Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, or TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289). Request that the credit bureau place a fraud alert on your credit report to prevent any further fraudulent activity from occurring. As soon as one of the bureaus issues a fraud alert, the other two bureaus are automatically notified.