August 21, 2015

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Are Online Games Like Fantasy Football as Harmless as They Seem?

Just around the time most people are thinking about back-to-school shopping and last-minute vacations, I start making complicated spreadsheets filled with player names, stats and injury records. Welcome to fantasy football season.

Part of fantasy football’s fun is how popular it’s become, especially in the past couple years. Yahoo! started offering free fantasy football leagues about 15 years ago, and there are now 33 million people playing every year. You can also pick from fantasy leagues for baseball, basketball, golf, auto racing, hockey and many other sports.

My little hobby also gives me a break from thinking about online security practices and identity theft protection, right? Well, not so fast. Whenever a large group of people congregate online and start swapping information, hackers take notice — and fantasy sports are definitely no exception.

Online Safety Tips for Gaming

While many fantasy sports forums are closed or private, there are still security risks you should know about. Here are some gaming safety tips to keep in mind.

  • Choose your team name wisely. There are plenty of clever options (my favorite is “You Kaepernick the Future“), but people also have a tendency to use personal information for team names. Choosing a pet’s name or a detail about your high school or current address, for example, can give thieves a hint about possible passwords you may use for other accounts.
  • Our social media tips apply to online fantasy sports forums as well. Limit how much you reveal about your geographic location, employment, family and other details that can be used to create a profile of you. Although you may think you’re chatting with fellow sports fans, it’s possible that cybercriminals could be trolling the forums looking for information they can use.
  • Watch for attachments and links. Much like you’d find in malicious spam, forums can be filled with thieves who embed files in instant messages. They may also try to tempt users into visiting virus-laden websites by putting links into forum messages. Don’t open or click anything that isn’t from someone you trust.
  • Make sure your kids are safe, too. If your teenagers are just as enthusiastic as you are about talking football, they should also practice gaming safety Talk to them about employing strong passwords and not oversharing information. Considering the rise in child identity theft, it’s a good idea to highlight the importance of keeping their personal details safe.
  • Use non-sports passwords. Simply being in a fantasy sports league gives identity thieves a tip-off about your interests. Don’t let them use that information by choosing a password that includes team names, players or other sports-related words. For example, “football” is number 10 on last year’s list of worst passwords.

Whether you’re new to fantasy sports or an old pro like me, take some time to brush up on your gaming safety so you don’t get tackled by identity theft.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Brian J. McDermott.

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