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Advice & More April 2012

Internet Caution – Keep Your Computer and Yourself Safe

By SueAnn Carpenter

Forums, pornographic sites, web sites offering free software from an unknown source, and social networking sites are where con men get precious data and plant spy programs. Never respond to emails promising profits that are too good to be true.

Staying safe on the Internet should be your top priority. It can pose a variety of threats, from security problems introduced by computer hackers to the possibility of dangerous people acquiring your personal details.

Most important is to keep your passwords confidential. You can make sure it's difficult for other people to guess by combining numbers and letters. Change the password periodically, and don't use the same password for different accounts. Always say "no" to "Remember this password?" because Trojan programs can harvest your stored passwords.

Keep your personal information under wraps. This will reduce identity theft and can help avoid stalker situations. Don't ever post your full name, home address, school or work address, credit card and Social Security numbers on the Internet. If you use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Tumblr, they now offer specialized options for making your profiles private by allowing only selected friends and family members to view information and photos. Implement it.

If you decide to meet someone you met online in person, whether through social networking or a dating site, make sure you do so in a busy place where other people are around. Also, bring a friend along with you. Anyone, regardless of age, should be cautious about meeting anyone from the Internet.

Computer viruses cause lots of problems. Not only can they track which websites you visit, but in many cases they disrupt your computer's ability to function. Install a reputable anti-virus software, such as Norton Antivirus. It explores the memory on your computer and analyzes whether any signs of infection exist. Make sure your computer firewall is always turned on. Because the operating system, applications and antivirus software programs are constantly updating and improving, it is essential to download the newest version.

Many fraudulent contacts on the Internet take place through e-mail phishing (fishing) which coaxes the recipient to supply his password, credit card numbers or bank account information to an authentic-looking but fake web site. Some phishing emails accomplish their aim even if you don't enter data. Your action of opening an unsolicited e-mail can insert spy software which will record your computer activity. Some of them log keystrokes in order to steal your passwords and personal information. Others redirect you to a fraudulent site.

Forums, pornographic sites, web sites offering free software from an unknown source, and social networking sites are where con men get precious data and plant spy programs. Never respond to emails promising profits that are too good to be true. Beware of unsolicited emails or instant messages, especially if they contain links or ask for personal information. You may have received these online messages: "Your computer is at risk!" or "Free Screensavers." If you click it, you might activate spy software.

If you're looking for a job on the internet, beware. Scammers use phony online sites to collect "registration fees" and even personal financial data. Make sure you type web addresses accurately, especially for financial institutions. One spelling mistake might redirect you to a fraudulent web site. And be sure to use encrypted connections to transmit sensitive data such as credit card details and log off the site when you're finished. A good practice is to review transactions on your credit card and bank statements carefully and frequently. If you spot something unfamiliar, contact the company immediately.

Be careful when using unsecured wireless (WIFI) connections as thieves cannot only steal information but also redirect you to fraudulent web sites.

Be proactive and protective by following these practices. When it comes to the internet, an ounce of prevention is better than several pounds of cure.


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