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Basic Internet Safety


The internet: how did we ever live without it? Shopping, instant messaging, chat, news and research, and more... all at the tip of your fingers twenty-four hours a day, all from the comfort of your home. These days, if you don't have an online presence, you're behind in the times. Unfortunately, predators and mischief-makers know this too - and they've easily adapted to this new, worldwide playground.

Still, no matter the horror stories you hear on the news, the internet really isn't a cesspool of danger, with viruses and scammers lurking around every corner. It's easy enough to avoid the dangers with just a few tips.

1) Anti-virus software. Enough said. There are plenty of options - from the big names you can buy in the store, to freeware options on the web. Just be sure that if you're downloading freeware that you're getting it from a reputable company - a little googling goes a long way here. Basic anti-virus software can and should protect against the multitude of virus and trojan threats coming your way.

2) Anti-spyware software. Spyware and malware are huge problems in the Windows world - malicious programs or bits of software designed to mine your personal information and surfing habits, show you dozens of ads, or even attempt to defraud you by coaxing you into giving up your credit card number to make it go away. It can slow down your computer to a crawl, or show your kids porn. Best to be rid of it! Good anti-spyware software will scan your computer and remove any such threats - but beware, sometimes it takes several sweeps to get it all! As with anti-virus software, there are commercial and freeware options to choose from.

3) Shop discriminately. When making purchases online, shop at national retailers, or online stores with a good reputation. Don't sign up for anything where you only pay a couple dollars in shipping - that's just a gateway to further charges that you can't seem to get stopped no matter how often you call the company. Health and nutrition supplements seem to be the latest and greatest of shopping scams around these days. Shop from retailers who use secure authentication, Google their reputation, or use a third party payment service with such features, such as PayPal. If the website is cluttered and of low quality, consider that a potential reflection on their business practices in general. If you decide to shop from a merchant you're uncertain about, consider using a credit card, rather than your debit card, to avoid draining your bank account dry if fraud does happen. Most importantly, keep an eye on your bank accounts and look over your charges at least monthly to spot and report any fraudulent charges to your bank.

4) Keep personal information safe. This extends beyond your card numbers in an attempt to stem identity theft. Be wary of who you provide your personal information to. Don't give out your social security number to just anyone, and don't use the same password for all your important online accounts. Teach children not to give out their full names, addresses, or telephone numbers to strangers, and monitor their internet usage fully to ensure compliance.

5) Lastly, don't open suspicious email. Just click delete. If you don't know who's sending you email, or if you didn't request to be put on a mailing list, just delete it. Email can harbor dangers such as viruses, trojans, spyware, or scams that look legit. Avoid any emails that ask you confirm your personal information by going to a website and entering in bank account numbers and your social security number - even if they appear to have come from your bank. When in doubt, delete!

 

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