OnGuard Online Blog

Public Wi-Fi Networks

Whether in a hotel or airport across the world, or in the coffee shop just down the street, chances are you’ve used free Wi-Fi hotspots. While convenient, they’re often unsecure. So how can you reduce your risk? Encryption — having your information scrambled into code — is key to staying secure online.

Image of Public Wi-Fi Video

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

A Text Message Mess

Let me set the scene: your friend John is rushing to get his daughter from school and his son to the soccer field, and he still needs to stop at the grocery store because there’s nothing in the fridge. In the midst of this everyday madness, he gets a text message from Google with a verification code. He thinks, “That’s weird. Maybe I should log in to my email and see what’s going on.”

Blog Topic: Avoid Scams

Is your phone a prized possession?

Let’s be honest: I spend more time playing games on my smart phone than talking on it. Our phones have become our family photo albums, personal gaming systems, calendars, encyclopedias, navigators, and instant messengers. If you can think of an activity, there’s probably an app for it.

Unfortunately, some apps might not be what they claim, and downloading the wrong app could put your phone on the fritz. According to the FTC, that’s what happened to thousands of people who downloaded the Prized app before it was removed from the app store.

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Before paying with bitcoins…

If you shop online — and who doesn’t? — you might notice that some websites let you pay with bitcoins. Virtual or crypto currencies like Bitcoin can be a fast way to pay online, or in person with a mobile app.

But using virtual currencies comes with risk. Their value goes up and down — sometimes sharply — depending on demand. In addition, payments made with virtual currencies aren’t reversible and don’t have the same legal protections as some traditional payment methods. Once you hit send, you can’t get your money back unless the seller agrees. That’s why it’s important to know who you’re buying from and what policies they have regarding refunds, returns, and disputes.

Shopping Online with Virtual Currencies

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

“Doom”ed false promises

Earn rewards for supporting a project you believe in? That’s what “crowdfunding” is all about.

Here’s how it works: “Creators” think of projects. To pay for those projects, they ask for small amounts of money from lots of people, usually through online platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Often, creators offer rewards to contributors. So far, so good … as long as the creators keep their end of the bargain.

Blog Topic: Avoid Scams

Email from OPM – is it the real deal?

You just got an email saying your information was exposed in the OPM data breach. Wondering whether the email is the real deal or not? Here are a few things to look for.

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

OPM data breach – what should you do?

A data breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – and you’re a current or former federal employee whose personal information may have been exposed. What should you do? Take a deep breath. Here are the steps to take.
Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Paying your friends through an app? Read this.

Imagine you’re at a restaurant with your friend. She pays the check, and says you can pay her back. Do you:
a) write an IOU on a napkin?
b) pull out a wad of cash and give her exact change?
c) take out your phone and pay her through a mobile payment app?

If you answered c), this post is for you.

Like apps that let you pay at stores with your phone, “peer-to-peer” payment services can be a convenient way to pay friends. But before you use one — or use one again — check the app’s settings for available security features.

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Older adults get into the act online

As May ends, we’re wrapping up Older Americans Month, with its theme “get into the act.” But it’s not too late for older Americans to get into the act online. If you’re an older adult who’s active online (or maybe you know one), here are some online safety tips to share. 

Can debt collectors message you for money?

It could start with an unexpected text message or email like this:


Hold on. The message is a lie. You don’t have payment arrangements with anyone. So who’s messaging you for money?

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online