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Never Engage in Unprotected...... Surfing!
And You Can Protect Yourself for Free
Admit it, for a fraction of a second I had you wondering! Today, protecting yourself from thieves on the internet is almost as important as that other subject. In addition to some good old common sense and skepticism, there are many free ways to make you safer.
Let's start with email. Everyone gets a ton and spam levels are high. Internet Service Providers (ISP's) are getting much better about filtering out the bad stuff, but some will always sneak through. A lot of it is scam artists offering to sell you cheap medications. There are still a few spin offs of the classic Nigerian Scam floating around, where you are asked to help with the transfer of a large amount of money from some offshore account. The saddest part of these emails is that they wouldn't keep sending them if there weren't suckers out there still falling for the scam. The most dangerous are called phisihing emails. These emails will attempt to mimic actual emails from a bank, paypal, or some other legitimate company. They often will copy the actual logos of the company to look more real. They will bait you with a warning that your account with the company has been compromised and that you need to immediately click on a link they provide to "fix" the situation. Don't ever ever ever click on one of those links. If you do and enter any personal information on the page to which the link takes you, consider yourself a victim of identity theft. When you receive any type of spam or phishing email, you can simply delete it or if you are feeling feisty you can report the offenders to Spam Cop and in the case of phishing forward the information to the anti-phishing working group.
To obtain software protection from malware, spyware, viruses, and other similar pests, there are many options. You can buy programs from companies such as Norton or McAfee, but there are many excellent programs available for free to indivudual users. I will provide you with a link that lists many of these free programs, but first a couple cautions.
If you find yourself on a website or a popup ad that offers to do a free scan of your computer - DON'T! These scans will always "find" something or even put something on your computer to cause a problem that they will then offer to fix - for a price. Don't ever buy into this. Some of these malware programs are very difficult to remove. One sure sign you have been screwed with is if you suddenly find your home page has been changed or if you are being subjected to constant popup ads. If you are infected, try to determine the name of the offending program and do a google search for a specific cure. Some of them can be cured by the free programs listed below, but some require special fixes.
There is actually such a thing as too much protection. You should have a good firewall program such as Zone Alarm and a good anti-virus program such as AVG or Avast, but note the "or". If you try to load several of these programs at once thinking more is better, you will likely cause serious conflicts in your computer and find the speed of your computer steadly becoming slower. Pick only one from each category that provide continues monitoring. An additional program that is run occasionly such as Spybot or Ad-Aware is fine. For a listing of the links to many of these free programs and more information on preventive steps you can take to help prevent identity theft, please visit the Smart Consumer Group website.