The internet is generally an indispensable commodity in this high-tech world. It provides people an easy access to information, entertainment, and other resources. It has also made lives of people easier, thanks to online banking, online shopping, online fast-food takeouts, and other services now available online. But there’s an ugly side of the Internet, with reports of identity theft, scams, viruses, harmful sites and even tarnished online reputations on a daily basis. This article will guide you through the different types of cyber attacks you could face when online.
How to Prevent Pop-Ups and Identify Spam
Pop-ups (or pop-up advertisements) are a type of online advertising used online to attract website traffic, or increase registrations. Although many websites use pop-ups legitimately, particularly when limited promotions are held, these types of messages that appear out of nowhere when viewing web content are similar to spam because they are unsolicited.
Three types of pop-ups exist – one that appears when clicking a photo or text on a webpage, one that appears randomly and one that appears on its own without the need to click anything. Aside from aggravating a user’s web experience, not all pop-ups are harmful. Some pop-ups are designed to disguise a pop-up, but are actually malicious programs such as the Trojan horse. The most popular type of popup is a warning sign asking you to update anti-virus programs and other types of security alerts, hoping users would click the window and allow malicious people from downloading content on your computer.
The most effective way of dealing with pop-ups is to ignore them completely and close the window carefully. Avoid interaction at all times. Clicking a link from a pop-up may redirect you to a website hosting spyware or Trojan horse, malware (malicious software), worms and a host of viruses that could expose your information and even lead to a computer crash. When clicking the “x” button, never click anywhere within the window itself. When a pop-up opens to a huge window, check if the close button is concealed on top of your screen. When it comes to clicking links, always trust your instincts.
Another way to avoid pop-ups is to install pop-up blockers, which can be a free or paid service. Most web browsers also provide an option for users to block pop-up ads automatically. This is especially useful if kids use your computers because many pop-up ads feature adult content. This article has further info with images about email spam.
Detect and Ignore Spam
Spam messages are unsolicited messages you receive on e-mails, instant messaging programs, social networking websites, forums and even on your own blog. Although they are generally harmless since most spam are used for advertising purpose, some spam may include links that would redirect anyone who clicks to harmful websites.
As previously pointed out, it is extremely important to take note of which links you click. Even if you receive an e-mail from a friend, you should still check with him or her if they really sent the message you received. It is possible that a worm or Internet virus has hijacked a friend’s computer and sent people from his/her e-mail a link hoping to infect as many people’s computer as possible.
Protecting Yourself from Data and Identity Theft
Identity theft began way before the internet became available to the public. As its name suggest, “identity theft” is a type of fraud wherein the theft steals another person’s identity, usually to obtain credit, access information and receive other types of benefits using the stolen person’s name. To avoid falling for this kind of theft, always guard your identity, which include information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, IDs, website and e-mail passwords, security codes and other sensitive information about yourself.
When you use a public computer in places like the office, libraries or internet cafés, always log off your instant messenger, e-mail, Facebook and other accounts that may include important details about you. You should also take note or avoid using auto log-in features to prevent anyone else from logging onto your account, accidentally or intentionally. Logging off would close any access ports on your computer, making it harder for intruders to steal your identity.
In social networking websites like Facebook.com, it is important to take not of just how much information you share about yourself. Even a simple telephone number or mobile number can go a long way when it comes to identity theft, so it pays to be extra careful. If you don’t like to remind yourself about security every time you check your social networking accounts, then it is highly recommended that you change privacy options of your account, so not everyone can view your profile and your information remains safe from theft.
If you believe to be a victim of identity theft, contact all your banks and credit card providers to put “fraud alert” on your accounts. Call companies that might have opened accounts without your approval, telling them that you will not be responsible for any charges made on that account. You should also file a police report and send an incident report to the Federal Trade Commission. Make sure to keep an extra copy of all the letters you sent, which can be useful to your case if creditors, credit bureaus and investigators try to ask for payments for charges you didn’t make. Read up wikipedias’s Identity theft article if you’re still hungry for information.
Different Types of Scams
Different scams are present online, each with varying styles and level of effect to the victim. If you love online shopping, take note of eBay (high shipping fees) and auction scams (ultra high bids made by the seller or his/her friends). Some sellers online even scam others into buying a product, then fail to ship it even after you paid.
1) Get-Rich Scams – There is also the get-rich-quick scheme and MLM scheme, which promises you the world and easy money, but usually fail to deliver. Get-rich-quick schemes usually involve working for a few hours to earn $100,000/month or more. Some involve buying an e-book, others involve a membership fee to get the “juicy details.” Meanwhile, the pyramid or MLM scheme can be legitimate, but the problem with a program that concentrates on members than its product is that only the pioneers and oldest members get to earn money.
2) Mortgage and Vehicle Scams – Some scams online involve your vehicles and home. Home buyers are usually the target of real estate scams, but these scams won’t be able to acquire your home. Instead, second mortgage scams work by asking you plenty of details about yourself, or filling up a form. Instead of receiving mortgage help, the person you sent the e-mail has just obtained your sensitive personal information (a process called phishing). Those who are selling their car, motorcycle or truck online may also face scammers who will try to buy your vehicle using a cashier’s check (with an extra amount of $4,000 or $10,000). The check arrives and your bank honors the check. The buyer then asks you to deposit his change via bank or to his shipping agent, and make arrangements to pick up the vehicle. Everything is good, until the seller discovers the cashier’s check is counterfeit, the vehicle never picked up and the buyer has disappeared with your cash.
3) 419 Scam – The 419 scam (advance fee scam/fraud) is the most popular type of scams online. It usually involves a big amount of money (such as lottery winnings or inheritance), which attracts many people who fall victim to these scams. The lottery scam falls under the 419 scam and works when someone contacts you via e-mail that you won the lottery, but you have to pay $100-$500 fee to receive millions worth of cash prizes. The inheritance scam works similarly to the lotto scam, but this time, someone will communicate with you claiming that a wealthy man or woman died and left a huge amount of money for you. To receive the money, you have to pay legal fees of $500 or more. When you do send the money, you’ll never hear from the scammer again.
Malicious People Online: Stalkers, Hackers and Everyone in Between
The internet allows you to meet different people of all ages. It is a good alternative if you’re not a social animal or if you don’t have time for meet-and-greets. However, the other side of the coin can be pretty dangerous. The web is home to stalkers, hackers and even predators, so it is very important to be wary of face-to-face meetings.
1) Personal Meetings – If you really want to meet someone in person, the US Federal Trade Commission recommends performing a background check on that person, particularly if you don’t know anyone who can vouch for that person’s character. If the meeting will be on a bar or at night, insist that you go choose a public place in broad daylight instead.
2) Stalkers – Stalkers also loom the online world, particularly in this age of social networking, wherein you wouldn’t know that someone is just nearby stalking you. To avoid falling victim to stalkers, be very careful about posting your information, such as address, phone numbers, schools, age, location and very detailed descriptions about how you look.
3) Safety of Kids – Kids should also be protected against internet bullies and sexual predators online. The cases of online bullying have become worse through the years that some lead to suicide, so parents must be really careful about letting their kids use the computer on their own. Chat rooms can also be dangerous to children since lack of adult supervision may lead kids to talking to sexual predators, who solicit underage children or try to lure them with gifts. It is important to be proactive with your kids’ digital lives since their real lives are at stake here.
If you believe your child is a victim of internet bullying or a sexual predator, speak to your children openly about their internet activities. Save e-mails or package receipts from the suspected predator. If you think the situation is getting worse, contact the police.
The internet has made many things easier for people, but it also created a new venue for scammers, con men and predators to thrive in. Even if you’re using the internet in the comfort of your home, being cautious can save you a lot of problems in the future.