Monday, 15 February 2016

Don't fall for hoaxes and scams

The internet can be an incredibly useful tool for information and tech support.
Many of us can't imagine life without email or the conveniences of services such as online banking.
However as always it's wise to keep your wits about you to ensure that you don't fall victim to the numerous hoaxes and scams that also exist in the online world.

A hoax can be as simple as misinformation, or out and out lies,  passed around in emails which urge the reader to “pass this on to all your friends” At worst you will feel embarrassed when you realize it wasn't true, and will have to eat humble pie when you have to backtrack and email all those friends again.

The best rule for all those emails is to simply not pass on any information that you haven't personally researched.

At the other end of the scale are true scams. These are designed to trick you into giving out personal information, such as user names and passwords for email accounts, bank accounts, or other accounts such as your Apple ID (which would give someone an opportunity to purchase music, books, apps, movies and TV shows in your name)

Often these emails say you need to update your info and ask you to follow a link to do so.
Some might suggest that you have made purchases. If you want to dispute those purchases you can follow a link to log into your account.
In all those cases you are basically being tricked into giving out personal information.

The easy rule to follow is this: No matter how legitimate the emails might look, you NEVER follow links in emails to a site where you would input your user name and password. Your bank will not ask for this info in an email, and neither will any company such as Apple or Microsoft.
Also you will not receive information about tax refund in an email.
If you really want to check if something is legitimate DON’T use the support emails or phone numbers in the email.

A good habit as you learn about scams is to use your search engine of choice (such as Google or Bing) to type in a few key words of the email you received,  and add the word hoax or scam. You will quickly realize that it is a known scam. Before long you will simply know to just delete those emails.
Also start to pay attention to the differences in legitimate sites that ask for personal info ( like your online bank site) Those sites will use https:// in the address. That stands for secure, and you should also see a padlock symbol. Without that security certificate it's likely a phishing site – one cleverly designed to look like the real thing.

Also watch out for those phone calls purporting to be from Microsoft telling you that you have a problem on your computer but that if you allow them access to your computer they will fix it for you. They will certainly find “something” and charge you a princely sum to remove it.
Remote access is a useful tool for tech support but you need to really trust someone before you allow that.

As you surf the web, you may also encounter a hoax pop up web page warning you that you are infected with a virus. Those pages can be hard to close. Using CTrl-Alt –Del ( or the faster Ctrl – Shift – Esc) to bring up the task manager can sometimes help. If necessary restart your computer.
Run a malware software scan afterwards just to be certain, though likely it will have just been a rogue web page.

New hoaxes and scams appear regularly. Learn how to search for information about scams. You can get some good info from sites such as, but be sure to go there directly, not from a link in an email.

Learn how to hover your mouse cursor over a link, or on a tablet,  tap and hold on the link, so you can see where the link really leads to ( I can help you with this if it's not something you are familiar with)

Here are some basic rules to follow::

Don't pass on emails with information you personally can't vouch for.

Don't follow links in any email that will take you to a site asking for personal info.

Don't allow anyone remote access to your computer unless you personally know and trust them.

Make sure all real secure sites have https:// in the address bar

If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of an email DON’T act on it. You can ask for help, or do some personal research. You will usually need to just delete it.

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