These are five of the most important tips consumers should follow to avoid being victimized by the type of data breach disclosed this week, in which Russian crooks stole 1.2 billion user names and passwords from 420,000 websites, according to Intel's security unit, McAfee.

1. Never click on links in emails from people you don't know or vaguely know. Many so-called phishing emails have links that lead to websites that can lure you into giving personal information or download malware to your computer.

2. Beware of phony websites. These sites may have an address that's very similar to a legitimate site, but the page can have misspellings, bad grammar or low resolution images. If a site asks for personal information, double-check the URL and make sure it's not asking for information it shouldn't.

3. Don't shop on a site unless it has the green "https" and a padlock icon to the left or right of the URL. Also, protect yourself and use a credit card instead of a debit card while shopping online, because a credit card company is more likely to reimburse you for fraudulent charges.

4. Use an extremely uncrackable password like 9&4yiw2pyqx#. Phrases are good too. Regularly change passwords and don't use the same passwords for critical accounts.

5. Back up all of your data on your computer, smartphone and tablet in the event of loss, theft or crash. Also, routinely check your various financial statements for questionable activity.



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