Courtesy of the PSA

Fifteen state attorneys general from across the country, including Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, are participating in a first-ever national campaign to warn consumers of the dangers of “pirate” websites.

Public service announcements have launched on television, radio, and social media in the 15 states, telling consumers how hackers use “pirate” sites to infect visitors’ computers with malware and viruses that can leave consumers’ personal and financial information vulnerable.

Pirate sites are those that may mirror legitimate sites but allow hackers to access visitors’ computers.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to protecting personal information,” Jepsen said. “As technology rapidly evolves, it’s important for consumers to be educated and ever-vigilant about the different ways hackers and scammers seek to victimize consumers over the Internet. Consumers should ensure that the websites they visit and links they click are authentic.”

He also advises consumers not to provide personal information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or other private data online, “unless you’re absolutely sure of the security and authenticity of the merchant to whom you’re providing it.”

The new campaign features 30-second ads starring state attorneys general, all delivering the same message.

“Nowadays, all of you have to worry about cybersecurity,” Jepsen tells viewers in his ad. “Hackers are always looking for new ways to break into our computers. Something as simple as visiting pirate websites can put your computer at risk.”

In addition to the attorneys general, the Federal Trade Commission has warned consumers about the dangers of pirate sites.

One-third of pirate websites expose users to malware, according to research by San Francisco-based cyber security firm RiskIQ. People who visited content theft sites were 28 more times likely to get malware from those sites than from mainstream sites and licensed content providers, according to the firm.

Most commonly, hackers use the sites to steal users’ bank and credit card information, find personal information, lock a user’s computer, or take over a computer’s camera, RiskIQ found.

“State AGs often serve as the consumer protection agency for their citizens, so we appreciate the leadership they are taking in alerting consumers to the new danger that consumers face from malware and content theft websites,” Tom Galvin, executive director of the consumer group Digital Citizens Alliance, said in a statement. “Criminals are exploiting stolen content by baiting consumers to view videos and songs and then stealing their IDs and financial information. It should be a wake-up call for consumers.”