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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

6 tips to keep you safe from internet bad guys

Jun 28, 2021 09:22AM ● By Adam Cochran
internet scammer in hood behind laptop with question mark over face

In the early days of computers, bad guys generally took the form of either hackers or viruses. However, today there are numerous ways bad characters use technology to extort money, steal information or wreak havoc on your online life.

The following tips, while certainly not an extensive list, are practical guidelines to help you avoid the many clever technology security threats.

TIP 1: Don’t fear technology.

Security is one of the most popular topics in the tech world, but sometimes the hype surpasses the actual threat. You’ve likely read articles about viruses spreading to cell phones, or hackers accessing a major company’s client data. More often than not, these are self-serving articles produced by computer security companies to promote their services. Don’t fear using computers because a fairly minuscule number of people are impacted by technology security threats.

TIP 2: Don’t panic.

The digital world’s “bad guys” take advantage of you when you’re vulnerable. If you receive urgent bad news in an email or phone call, or a scary alert comes up on your device, don’t panic. Your first and safest assumption is that the message is fake.

Hang up and reboot your phone, or close the email and restart your computer. Wherever you receive the message, don’t be afraid to end the interaction and walk away. Come back after you’ve cooled down. Call an expert and have the message verified.

TIP 3: Never respond directly to the threat.

If you receive a recorded message in your voicemail, a scary email, or a text alert on your phone saying you’re in trouble, don’t call the number provided in the warning. Your bank, the IRS, and even your friend (who likely has not been kidnapped in Cameroon) all have direct phone numbers.

TIP 4: No legitimate entity knows whether you have a technology problem.

If you receive a call, text message or email from Microsoft, Dell, Apple or the government saying your device security has been compromised, it’s ALWAYS a scam.

Bad guys often trick caller ID into indicating they’re calling from Microsoft or Amazon. They almost always use fake nondescript Eastern accents and background noise in an attempt to convince potential victims that they’re calling from an official call center.

TIP 5: Don’t ever let a stranger remote control your device.

Occasionally, tech companies will request to control your device remotely in order to troubleshoot an issue. If you call Quicken or Dell for assistance, you can probably trust the person on the other end to remotely control your computer to get you through the problem.

However, if a stranger contacts you and tells you they need to scan your computer for problems, hang up and walk away. Once a bad player has control of your computer, they can download system files, change passwords and even tamper with your bank accounts.

TIP 6: Avoid obscure free apps.

This is especially true with Windows and Android devices, but even iPhone and Apple computers are occasionally vulnerable to apps that pretend to be a tool, but actually harvest information or spread junk. Many legitimate companies produce free apps, but they’re generally tied to an obvious source of revenue. They may recommend you buy the full version of the app, subscribe to a premium service, or are connected to a retail channel such as Amazon.

If you installed a free game with no obvious form of revenue, the app is at best gathering data from your device and at worst spreading malware (viruses and other unwanted programs) to your device that will create bigger problems later.  

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