As we celebrate Halloween, you of course need to watch out for ghosts, goblins and witches — but New Jersey officials are also warning anyone who uses the internet to beware of scammers, schemers and hackers.

According to Attorney General Chris Porrino, there were 676 data breaches reported to New Jersey State Police officials during 2016, and this number doesn’t just refer to individuals who had their accounts hacked at home.

“This is 676 entities that possess or control personal information of others,” he said.

New Jersey law requires all businesses and public entities that compile or maintain computerized personal records of individuals to report all unauthorized security breaches.

Porrino pointed out most of us now use the internet routinely — but “the truth is you need to continue to be suspicious and careful.”

He said we are seeing a large number of phishing attacks involving crooks who attempt “to effectively steal your identity by gathering information about your birthday, your Social Security number and the like.”

“What we’re telling citizens of New Jersey now is be suspicious, to be careful. If you get an email from someone who you don’t recognize, do not click on the link," he said.

Porrino said if a correspondence purports to be from a particular vendor or company, “go to the website directly. Do not click on that link if you don’t recognize who it’s coming from.”

He said another way to protect yourself from hackers is avoiding free wifi, especially “when you’re conducting financial transactions, or accessing health or personal information.”

Porrino said it’s also important to avoid contest scams, where you get a pop up on your screen informing you that you’ve won a contest, and you're told all you have to do to collect some wonderful prize is to provide some information about yourself .

“When it looks like it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not true," he said.

"The individuals who are looking to steal your identity are not just targeting the rich and famous. They’re targeting people who they think they’re going to be successful in stealing their identity," he said.

New Jersey citizens can get alerts, advisories and training information, and can report data breaches and other types of cyber incidents directly to the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell at

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is recommending everyone  follow a few simple tips to stay safe in cyberspace:

• Avoid clicking on e-mail links or attachments from unknown individuals, financial institutions, computer services or government agencies. To check out the message, go to the sender's legitimate public website, and use the contact information provided.

• Adjust device privacy settings to control sharing of data between applications, software and address books.

• Choose a strong password containing letters, numbers and symbols. If a website offers two-factor authentication security, use it.

• To protect your device from unauthorized access and malware software, install security software, often available from your Internet provider, and ensure that firewall and anti-virus protections are updated continually.

• Before disposing of any electronic device, wipe the hard drive using specialized software that will overwrite your information; or donate the device to a certified recycling facility that follows government standards for the destruction of data.

• Parents can report concerns about websites directed to children to the Division of Consumer Affairs, which enforces the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Parents should take advantage of parental control software offered by their internet service provider, adjust browser settings to limit children's access, and review history logs to monitor usage.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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