Don’t Click on a Hyperlink within an Email Message
Scammers obfuscate links in email messages so that they appear to be legitimate websites, but they are not. Never click a link in an email message unless you are absolutely sure it is OK. It is easy to go to the link by copying the link and pasting in into your Web browser, or by typing the link address into your Web browser.
Remember, deception like this is the thief’s most powerful weapon. They make their living off deception, they're going to try and look as official as possible, so don't let them scare you into giving up any personal information, fear is the tool most commonly used to drive consumers into the identity thief’s trap.
Keep in mind when it comes to email messages, most real companies will address you by your real name, not a generic "Dear verified member" or something similar. This is one of the most simple and effective ways to spot a scam from a mile away and it requires no technical knowledge whatsoever!
Use Anti-Virus and Anti-Adware Software
Anti-virus software can protect you against viruses, worms and Trojan horses before they are installed on your computer. It's important to make sure your anti-virus software is kept up to date so you stay current with the latest threats. If your not running a firewall (explained below), and someone manages to exploit your computer and starts loading your computer up with Trojan horses, viruses and worms, an anti-virus program will stop them before the malware can run on your computer.
I use ESET NOD32 for anti-virus protection. There are many other good options. The important thing is to purchase from a reputable company. The hyperlink for ESET NOD32 is here:
It is also important to use anti-adware or anti-spyware software. Spyware and adware allow others to monitor your computer usage and can also force advertisements on you—it is mostly about making money off of you. Sometimes this might be OK with you, like when you want a company you trust to let you know when they have something they think would interest you. But most spyware and adware will be very sneaky about how they get installed onto your computer. Even "experts" can be surprised to find that they have fallen victim to spyware and adware. Just visiting a website can make you vulnerable.
The most common place to acquire malware is through email messages, peer-to-peer file sharing networks and sneaky websites. It's also possible to get infected because you do not keep your computer up-to-date with the latest security updates and operating system patches. Hackers are constantly scanning the Internet looking for computers to hack into. The thieves among the hackers want to install malware. New scams and bugs appear every day. Stay up-to-date!
If you surf the Internet and notice you are now getting annoying pop up ads, this means you are infected with spyware or adware.
There are three good software options to control spyware and adware that are free. You can try Free Adware and Spyware Scan - Privacy Defender 3.0. It
Here are the URLs if you would rather copy-and-paste than to click on the links above:
Use a Personal Firewall
A personal firewall is software that gives you complete control over what your computer sends and receives over the Internet. No hidden communication is permitted without your expressed permission.
Firewalls make it easy to spot telltale activity when your computer is infected with a Trojan horse, even if it's a new strain that the anti-virus program you are running may not yet recognize (remember new malware comes out every day). Firewalls alert you, and give you the chance to deny a hostile program from gaining access to your computer or connecting to the Internet if they get into your computer somehow. This in turn can protect your identity, as well as alert you that something is happening that should not be happening.
A firewall can block unauthorized incoming malware or malicious individuals scanning for exploitable computers to hack into your computer. If the can’t get in, they can’t try to plant their malicious software that allows them to steal your personal information. Firewalls can also be useful if your computer is not kept up-to-date with the latest security patches for your operating system or the latest malware prevention software updates.
There are many good personal firewall applications. I use the one that comes with Windows XP. If you want something a bit better, try the ZoneAlarm Security Suite
Look for "https" and a Padlock
This is another important and simple thing you can check even if you have little technical knowledge. Website addresses that start with https:// and have a padlock icon indicate your sensitive data is protected from interception by a third party.
Always look for these two items on websites when submitting personal and confidential information. A website without these items is definitely not secure, and most likely not legitimate if they are asking for identity information.
Examine Your Credit Report
If you have responded to a fraudulent email message or submitted any personal info to a fraudulent website, you should check your credit report immediately to make sure you are not a victim of identity theft.
Unfortunately, identity theft doesn't stop there. Some email messages contain viruses that can transmit your personal information over the Internet, so if you've tried to open any suspicious attachments or have not kept your computer up to date with the latest patches, then pay attention to this: Stealing of your personal info can happen while you are accessing a legitimate website if you are infected with a virus or Trojan horse that does keystroke logging. A personal firewall would prevent a program of this type from being able to transmit data over the Internet, but the scammers are always coming up with something new. So even if you do not suspect your identity was stolen, it is still a good idea to examine your credit report about once a year.
Keep your software up-to-date
New bugs and exploits that hackers use to gain access to your system and personal files are being discovered all the time, especially now that more and more inexperienced computer users are discovering the Internet. As new software applications are written, the potential for new malware is introduced. It is essential that you keep your security software up-to-date with the latest versions. It is a very good idea to enable 'auto-updates' on your computer.
Use Spam Filtering
One study concludes that 82% of all email sent is spam! Spam is not only time consuming, but costs us all a lot of money. Spam is also the delivery method for malware. So, it is imperative that you protect yourself against spam.
You might try Spam Arrest. It will put a stop to spam and malicious email viruses. Spam Arrest is very easy to use. You don't have to install any software. You run your email through the Spam Arrest service and it will begin working for you instantly. It's a simple yet extremely effective concept requiring people who send you an email message to do a one-time verification to confirm that they are a real person before their messages are allowed to be delivered to your email inbox. You can supply and perfect a list of who is allowed to send you email when you set up the service so no one on the list has to do the verification and you can set things up to receive any messages from email distribution lists you trust or messages from companies you trust.
I do not use Spam Arrest because I found that too many people that I wanted to communicate with were put off by the verification request—I often get email from people who have never sent me a message before, so they are not on my “white” list. Nevertheless, Spam Arrest stops spam dead and if spam gets much worse I may go back to it. Spam Arrest has a 30 day free trial so you can check out how useful it is and draw your own conclusion.
Spam Shield is an Outlook and Outlook Express plug-in that you might want to try. It blocks unwanted SPAM without filtering your mail through another service. It runs on your computer, so you control which messages are blocked. I use it and like it. It does not catch everything, but it makes the spam problem bearable.
eBay and PayPal Phishing
These organizations DO check these email accounts. It is a good idea to forward your email messages where you suspect fraud to these commonly targeted companies—forward the messages to the email addresses every time, even if you know without a doubt the email is a scam. Informing them helps them get the scammer shut down, and perhaps can save someone else from getting ripped off.
For more information on how to protect yourself in the future from these types of scams, you may find this site of use:
Report spoof websites and get them shut down at their source!
This is from eBay:
To help our members better protect themselves from spoof websites, we have developed a new feature for the eBay Toolbar called "Account Guard." Account Guard includes an indicator of when you are on an eBay or PayPal website, buttons to report fake eBay websites, and a password notification feature that warns you when you may be entering your eBay password into an unverified site. To learn more about the eBay Toolbar with Account Guard, open a new browser and type http://www.ebay.com/ebay_toolbar into the address bar. Note that eBay will never send you an email that includes a download as an attachment or a link that goes to a page with a download.