Keep these little guys out of your computer

Like the recent Facebook scam has taught us, sometimes a sweet deal really is too good to be true. To ensure you don’t fall prey to an online scam, check out the tips below to help hacker-proof your time online.

  • The best way to spot a scam of any kind is to look at the referring site. If it isn’t coming directly from the company in question, it’s most likely a scam you don’t want any part of. For example, the Facebook scam didn’t come from (big red flag there). It came from StarbucksCafe.Me (Don’t go there). When in doubt, go to the company’s main site, if there’s no reference to the contest there, you’ll know it was a scam.
  • A company you do business with is never going to email you to ask for personal information. For example, if you have a Chase credit card and you get an email from “Chase” asking you to update your account information, including your password, delete that email immediately. You can also call the company directly if you’re not sure an email is valid. Better safe than sorry when it comes to important information like this. Reporting the scam to the company is also a good idea so they can warn other customers.
  • With so many accounts to log into and so many passwords to remember, it can be tempting to use the same login information for all of them. But when it comes to important accounts, it’s best to use something different for each one. Try to keep passwords at least 8 characters or more and incorporate a mix of uncommon symbols and uppercase and lowercase letters. Stay away from using any personal information that can be easily guessed, including your spouse’s or pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, city where you were born, etc.
  • Beware of pop-up ads claiming in flashing letters that your computer is infected with a virus. It’ll tell you to click on it to download a program that will remove the virus from your computer. Your computer probably didn’t have a virus before this, but click on that ad and guess what? It does now. My Mom did this not too long back and I spent quite a few hours trying to get rid of the virus that ended up wiping out all her documents and photos. Bottom line: don’t download anything unless you know it’s from a reputable site.
  • Install an anti-virus program on your computer to help prevent suspicious pop-up ads, email scams, and fraudulent sites. Keep in mind that nothing is completely foolproof, so stay aware when you’re online and you’ll be able to better protect yourself and your personal information from hackers.