The venerable, old FBI issued its annual holiday safety tips. And they’re pretty good. We’ll give you their tips and then give you a few of ours. It’s very important that you be extra careful during the holiday season. Sometimes, for example, EB gets to draining a few too many holiday bowls and becomes — to put it nicely – a little tipsy. Add that to her age, she needs to be careful about using a computer in such a state of delirium. Now I’m not accusing any of you of such careless behavior, but you know we all like to make a little merry during this time of the year.
And the spammers and fraudsters and criminals are out in full force this time of year using every device known to man to trick people into falling into their pernicious traps. But you are a fine person and you subscribe to this erudite publication because you’re eager to learn more about that computer of yours.
The number one thing to remember is — use your head. Don’t be tricked into believing your computer is infected with a thousand malicious, spyware and virus files which will cause your computer to melt and the contents of your house to be exposed to the world on YouTube. Don’t panic. Don’t be afraid; just be careful.
OK. Here are the FBI’s safety tips for you during the holidays:
- Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
- Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
- Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Always run a virus scan on attachment before opening.
- Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
- Always compare the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.
- Log on directly to the official Web site for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
- Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that the e-mail is genuine.
- If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.
To that list we’d add that you should never respond to an email from any store, bank, online payment service or credit card company who asks you to “verify your account” or “change your password” or that your account may have been hacked and you need to login to your account right now and verify that your account is intact and unscathed. Banks, credit card companies, online payment services and the like, NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER send emails asking you to click a link to go to your account and change something. NEVER.
Also, if you see an email from one of these types of companies that starts off, “Dear valued customer”, you know it’s fake. If it’s a legitimate email it will start off Dear Mr. James, or Dear Kevin Marcus, or Dear Julie Johnson — or whatever the name on your account is.
One final thing: Do not panic. Be careful. Always use a credit card when you shop online because your credit card company will assume all liability for fraud – and if the merchandise comes to you in shoddy shape you can get your money back immediately. If you send a check or money order, you’re going to wait for your money back — it could take weeks. And if you send a check or money order and the company you paid is fraudulent – guess who’s going to be out the money. That’s right — YOU. If you use a credit card and realize you’ve been snookered, you can report the fraud to your credit card company and you’ll get the charge removed from your card immediately. You’re not out a dime.
Take it from the ghost of Christmas past (EB) and the ghost of Christmas present (TC) — if you’re reasonably careful, if you keep your antivirus and antispyware updated, you’ll have a pleasant holiday season. When the bills come in January? Well that’s a different story. We don’t have any bill-paying tips — yet. Maybe next year?