Spam Increasing, and This Time it`s Personal - Avoiding the Pitfalls of Personal Spam
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Aside from using a strong, regularly updated spam filter and being cautious, there are a number of different things that Internet users can do in order to avoid the serious pitfalls associated with falling victim to personal spam. First and foremost, users should never respond to e-mails that request personal financial information. Banks or e-commerce companies generally personalize emails, while phishers do not. Phishers often include false but sensational messages, such as, "Urgent - your account details may have been stolen," in order to get an immediate reaction. Reputable companies don't ask their customers for passwords or account details in an email. Even if you think the email may be legitimate, don't respond; contact the company by phone or by visiting their website. Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, no matter who they're from.
Another smart tip is visiting a banks' website by typing the URL into the address bar. Spammers often use links within emails to direct their victims to a spoofed site, usually to a similar address such as mybankonline.com instead of mybank.com. When clicked on, the URL shown in the address bar may look genuine, but there are several ways it can be faked, taking you to the spoofed site. If you suspect an email from your bank or online company is false, do not follow any links embedded within it. Also, keep a regular check on your various accounts. Being up to date and aware of your current statements will enable you to detect suspicious transactions that much quicker.
In order to avoid falling for scams as a result of personal spam, it's also important that Internet users are cautious with their e-mails and personal data. Most banks have a security page on their website with information on carrying out safe transactions as well as the usual advice relating to personal data: never let anyone know your pin numbers or passwords, do not write them down and do not use the same password for all your online accounts. Avoid opening or replying to spam emails as this will give the sender confirmation they have reached a live address. Use common sense when reading emails. If something seems implausible or too good to be true, then it probably is.
Some phishing emails or other spam may contain software that can record information on your Internet activities; this is called "spyware." Personal spam can also open a "backdoor" to allow hackers access to your computer. Installing anti-virus software and keeping it up to date will help detect and disable malicious software, while using anti-spam software will stop phishing emails from reaching you.
It is also important, particularly for users with a broadband connection, to install a firewall. This will help keep the information on your computer secure while blocking communication from unwanted sources. Make sure security software is up to date and the latest security patches for browsers have been installed. Lastly, if any e-mail is received that does not look genuine, it should be sent to the user's e-mail provider. Many popular providers, such as Gmail and Hotmail, have a "report phishing scam" option that can be used when deleting or organizing e-mail in a user's inbox.
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