The rise of the internet and email has brought many benefits but at the same time it has also brought many dangers. The web is a dangerous place. Viruses and malware are often spread by email, so you need to stay alert. Although some of the risks are no more than an annoyance, others can seriously damage either your PC or your bank balance.
The absolute first thing you must do is ensure you have proven and reliable anti-virus and firewall software installed and activated on your PC. Never go online without them and make sure they are kept up-to-date because the dangers are changing all the time and you must be fully prepared. This protection will make your machine more secure by stopping a lot of threats before they get to you.
Viruses are self executing programs that replicate themselves across different PCs. At worst they can be very destructive by corrupting programs and erasing your data. At best they are simply annoying and will slow down your PC. But many viruses cannot do this on their own; they need your help in order to spread.
Viruses often come in as attachments to emails. If you have proper anti-virus software that scans the attachments, they may be blocked. If they do get through, opening the attachment may release a virus onto your PC. The golden rule is to never open an email attachment that you get from someone you don’t know. Delete the message immediately before you’re tempted.
Stop the Spam
If you’ve been using the internet for some time, you’ll find you get an increasing amount of junk mail, otherwise known as spam. The people who send these messages get your email address from various sources, including your website, forums, discussion boards and newsletters. The more active you are in these areas, the more spam you’re likely to get, so keep your email address as private as possible or use different addresses.
Your internet service provider should have anti-spam filters that will reduce the amount you receive and you can set your own email filters to send some straight into the bin. Ignore the rest or delete it but, whatever you do, don’t reply. If you respond to an invitation to unsubscribe, you are actually verifying that your email address is valid, so it will be circulated to other spammers.
Phishing and Scamming
An increasingly common modern problem is that of identity theft. An email variant is a practice known as phishing, where an apparently authentic email will ask for your bank account details or other personal information. This often comes in the form of a supposed security alert where you need to verify your account details so that your account stays active. The email may seem genuine and you are directed to an authentic looking website where you are asked to input your account details. Don’t do it — all that will happen is that your bank account will be emptied.
Banks and other financial organizations will never ask for account details by email. Always access a website by typing in its URL, using a favorite link or a shortcut you’ve set up. Never use a link that someone else supplies because it might take you to the wrong place. Report these messages so that your bank or supplier is aware of them. And always check your bank and credit card statements to look for unusual transactions.
In amongst all the spam you receive, you might get the odd scam email that is trying to trick you out of money. These messages have often wonderful and heart-rending stories of people who are gravely ill and need your help to get money out of their country. They may also tell you that you’ve won a large cash prize or may even be apparently from someone you know who is stuck in another country. The common thread is that they all want you to send them money. Don’t do it.
With email, as with most things, be alert and stay sensible. Always bear in mind the old saying: ‘If something seems too good to be true, it probably is’.
In conclusion then I give you this list:
Basic e-mail safety tips:
- Change your password often and keep it in a safe place
- Don’t share the password with anyone.
- Don’t open any attachments from anyone unless they are run through an anti-virus program.
- Log off when done.
- Don’t reply to spam, harassing, or offensive e-mail or forward chain e-mail letters.
- Use common sense and keep personal information personal.
- Delete all e-mails, unread, from people you don’t know
- Don’t be caught by the spammers’ favorite tricks, “Remember me?” , “Your account is suspended!”, and “You just won a FREE…”