For many computer users, the Internet and e-mail have become invaluable tools that are an important part of our daily lives. While the benefits to using e-mail are numerous, there are also some risks of which everyone should be aware.
One of the newer phenomena in cyberspace is called "phishing." Phishing refers to unsolicited e-mails (i.e. spam) that are cleverly disguised to trick recipients into revealing important private information. These e-mails often pose as e-mails from banks, credit card companies, Internet service providers, retail stores, and even charities. These will often ask for updated account information for a bank account or credit card - or will ask for your Social Security number, or other sensitive financial information.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- NEVER give out sensitive financial information over e-mail - e-mail is not a very secure means of communication. It is far more secure to use the telephone (provided that you know the number you are using is legitimate) or a secure web server.
- NEVER open attachments to e-mails that you are not expecting. If you know the person that sent the e-mail, please ask them if they sent the attachment, and what it is.
- Most companies will not ask for financial information over e-mail. If you receive an e-mail that you are unsure about, do not click on any links provided in the e-mail - these links often send you to fake websites that can put your privacy at risk. Instead, visit that company's main website or call a customer service representative to find out more information.
- Keep your computer virus-free by running up-to-date antivirus software. If you do not have antivirus software on your computer, you can scan your computer for free by clicking on the following link: http://housecall.trendmicro.com/
- It is also very helpful to run a spyware-detection program (similar to antivirus software) to ensure that none of your personal data is at risk - Ad-Aware Personal from http://www.lavasoft.de/ is a great free spyware-removal tool.
For more information on "phishing," please visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0003-phishing (EDIT: updated broken link 12/2/2016).
Have an e-Buddies tech question? Send questions or comments to Bill Maurer at BillMaurer@bestbuddies.org.
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