The internet can be a scary and dangerous place these days. Dangers include malware, viruses, trojans, phishing, and more. All of these are attempts by criminals to steal from you. In real life, we know about this kind of thing and take precautions such as locking doors and not opening the door to strangers. There are things we can do on the internet that are equally protective there, too.
Some of the protective measures everyone should use include anti-virus software, password managers and virtual private networks (VPNs), with good backups as insurance. Here, I’d like to talk about email hygiene – being careful what you click on.
Probably the most common way the bad guys try to bilk you is through email. Just about everyone has received suspicious messages. Here are some ways to recognize them and to avoid being fooled by them.
- Look at the actual address an email is sent from. How you do this is different with each email system, but they all let you do this. Compare the name of the sender to the email address in the message. If they don’t appear to match, go no further. For instance, if the sender shows up as “Amazon Customer Service” but the email address might be firstname.lastname@example.org, you know it’s not legitimate.
- Look for misspelled words. It’s amazing how many criminals don’t use spell-check before they send out their bait. In part, this may be because many scammers are located outside the US in countries where the native language is not English.
- If the message is asking for any personal information, it is almost certainly not legit. Legitimate organizations do not ask for information such as passwords, account numbers, phone numbers, etc.
- Do not click on any links or buttons in an email unless you are certain the email is genuine. If the message says something like “click here to update your account,” don’t do it. Even if you think it is valid, it’s better to go directly to that organization’s website to do whatever you need to do. If the request is real, then this will be possible.
- An email from a friend or family member requesting money or a gift card is almost certainly bogus. If it’s somebody you know, pick up the phone and call them to verify. If you don’t know them, forget it.
In all these cases, the remedy is to delete the offending message.
These are just a few thoughts on how to keep safe online. Please contact us if we can help.