Common mistakes that can ruin your computer or invite identity theft
From Consumer Reports, Sept 2008
1 – Do not assume your security software is protecting you! If you haven’t activated it, or updated it – it will be worthless. Ideally you set it for automatic updates and it’s free so you don’t have to worry that it will expire and you’ll run into trouble with that.
2 – Do not access an account through an email link! No matter how official an email message looks, do not click on the link that is embedded in the email. If the email is fraudulent, a cybercriminal could use the account number and password you enter to steal your identity or worse. If you think the email is legitimate – then just go directly to the website and check the account there.
3 – Do not use a single password for all online accounts! If someone steals your password then your identity can be stolen for ALL your accounts. Use a different password for each account. Just use a variation on one password. All passwords should be at least TEN characters long, with both small/cap letters, some numbers, and if possible some characters.
4 – Do not download free software that is sent to you. If you see something that offers free software you can really regret downloading it. Often spyware is attached to the software and your computer will be compromised. Download software only from reputable sites. Be sure you have a spyware program on your computer!
5 – Do not click on a pop-up ad that says your PC is insecure, or to be honest - do not click on ANY pop-up ad! Clicking on pop-ups is NEVER a good idea. Most such pop-ups are phonies and dangerous. You can transfer spyware to your computer with such a download, or even worse the pop-up has malware. Whenever you see a pop-up – click on the small X in the corner and get rid of it. You can also enable your browser’s pop-up blocker.
6 – If you shop online, do it very carefully! You must disclose more personal information when you shop online as compared to going into a store. Thieves can sneak in undetected between you and the retail site. Be sure you use a separate credit card for internet shopping. Never use a debit card. Be sure the website starts with “https” which shows an extra level of security.
7 – Do not assume a MAC is safe! If you have a Mac computer – there is risk to phishing scams – be sure to use browsers that include anti-phishing toolbars.
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