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Internet Security: Protection from Hackers

Online security can be achieved if you take a few simple steps to prevent falling victim to ruthless hackers. Almost every internet user has an email account, just as virtually every person lives at a residential address. The first step is not to disclose your email to people you don't know or trust. Secondly, when you create your personal email, be sure it does not include your full name, if any name at all. Instead of your real/full name, perhaps a pseudonym; then, should hackers access your information, the damage will be lessened, as they won't obtain your personal information (i.e., name).

Personal Information: Online and Credit Card Purchases

You might also be making purchases online, an excellent way to avoid crowded malls and save on rising fuel costs, but before you make these purchases, be aware of key security features. Before you make any purchases or give out your personal data, be sure the company is trustworthy; depending on your "browsing experience" you can sometimes tell by the quality of their website. You might try investigating the company through the Better Business Bureau, online forums, blogs, or even their local business council. Other major things to look for include the type of security offered; this information can be found in the address-bar, which normally starts with http:// Before entering your personal information be absolutely sure it starts with https:// the extra "s" means "secured." At the same time, you may also find a security-lock-icon near the top and/or bottom of the browser's frame (depending on your browser and its settings).Security Lock Icons
Note, that a simple image of a lock that may appear on the content area is not trustworthy, it needs to be on the browser's frame. All this means is that the information that you enter is going to be encrypted so that outside sources (hackers) trying to maliciously monitor the site, won't be able to successfully access your data. There are also different encryption levels ranked in bytes ranging from 64, 128 and 256, these are all great, but the higher the bits, the harder to crack. You can find out more info by double clicking on the security-lock-icon. Please, also be aware of your current surroundings: if you are in a public place, someone can simply be watching over your shoulder & gain information the old fashion way.

Phishing for Your Dollars & Data Via Email

If you currently have online access to your bank or any other institution, and get an email from them claiming something has gone wrong and they need you to do something like "click this link to sign into your account" or "we need to verify your information," be very suspicious! Unless your have just signed up or registered a few seconds ago and the email contains your real name (not just email address) in the message, just ignore it and delete the email. If you ever have even the slightest doubts about the authenticity of the email, simply just close the email and type in the companies URL (uniform resource locator or the www.some-company.com) in the address bar of your browser, instead of clicking on the link from your email.

There are many ways to duplicate the look and feel of the real company into emails aimed to collect your information (called phishing). Some of these can even be embedded into the links that you may eventually see in the address bar. Some of these links may contain a set of numbers, followed by text that may look like your bank's URL, e.g. 208.54.458.224/https/wellsfargo.com/signon or even: http://wellsfargo.com-signon.ws/ This is just an example of "masking" or imitating the real companies; instead hackers are looking to steal/phish for your information so they can login to your real account (using the information that you just provided) in a matter of minutes.

Phishing also happens on social websites, such as myspace.com, whereby upon clicking a link, you are taken to a phony page & asked to log in. The same thing happens here, hackers gain your personal information & will use it against you in any way they can. If you find yourself fooled by phishing (if can't seem to log into the phony website, this is a big clue) and you have not given out too much personal information, you can usually correct the damage by going to the real site (type the companies URL in the address bar of your browser) and change your password (and username if possible,) immediately! Otherwise, consider closing that account, contact the authorities and open a different account.

You may also get other emails scams, some claiming to be from foreign countries, that might say they have some large amount of money they want to transfer to you for some odd reason, and in exchange they promise a small percentage for gratitude. This is a popular scheme where they might even send you a real check, and you may even be able to pass it though your bank, but by the time you think you've "collected" your share, the check will bounce and you will be in a legal quagmire, while the crook enjoys "the good life" with your real money.

Online Predators

Chat rooms and other online methods of communications are popular among hackers. Some cunning criminals take advantage of this form of communication to con people of all ages into either giving out too much information, and/or setting up a meeting in person. If you are a parent, you should always be involved in your child's activities. There is software that can help you to monitor or even prevent access to chat-programs and websites, but no software is perfect and technology is in constant change. If you are not familiar with the computer or internet, either ask your family to teach you, utilize literary & virtual resources, or consult an expert for help and tutoring.

Be aware of ads and expensive items for sale on the classifieds. A local detective I know told me about people who were being robbed after trying to buy a large items from craigslist.org. The crooks tightly wrapped up some heavy bricks/garbage into a empty box that appeared to be the TV set they wanted, and the buyer(s) either had a hard time opening and inspecting the contents, so they accepted it, or it was too late and they had already appeared with cash in hand, and the thieves took advantage.

Although there are many clean and safe transactions everyday, you should be more informed and cautious about the risks and threats that exist. You will find other helpful information to fight fraud here: www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com

Who should I notify about fraud or scam attempts?
  • FTC toll free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)
  • FTC online complaint form www.ftc.gov
  • Canadian PhoneBusters hotline: 888-495-8501
  • Internet Fraud Complaint Center www.ic3.gov
  • Non-emergency number for your local police department.