6 questions to avoid spam, phishing, viruses and other attacks on your computer

6 questions to avoid spam, phishing, viruses and other attacks on your computer

With high-speed Internet in so many homes, computer users need to be aware of what they’re doing and what they’re clicking.

You have the power to protect yourself and your computer if you know what you’re up against. A virus will contaminate your computer, any others it can reach through you and cause nothing but harm. Phishing is when someone tries to get your personal information through e-mail. Spyware tracks your computer use and slows your computer down to a crawl.

My motto as a computer repair professional is: If it comes to me unsolicited, I stay away from it. But if it’s something I’ve asked for then maybe I can trust it. Even then, I still scrutinize everything.

I don’t click just any link. I carefully read the complete address before I decide to click. If anything doesn’t feel right, I don’t click it. I know a lot of this is experience from years of working in the computer repair and IT field, but you can protect yourself, too.

Use common sense and question everything to avoid needing a computer repair professional. Ask yourself:

1. Is this e-mail REALLY from someone I know?
Maybe the address just looks so familiar that I overlooked the typo. That typo is a deadgive away to indicate it’s not real. Don’t click that attachment! This will most likely set off a virus that will begin to replicate throughout your computer. That’s what viruses do.

2. Is DHL, FedEx, UPS really trying to contact me, through e-mail, about a package for delivery?
Chances are “NO!” Think about it. Did you sign up to receive e-mail notifications regarding deliveries? If you did, you may be OK. But still, go directly to the website and work from there. If you didn’t, stay away!

3. Why would Microsoft call me?
Maybe you received a call from Microsoft telling you that your computer was experiencing problems and they can fix it, but you have to grant them remote access. Wrong again! Microsoft will never call you. And there’s no way they can see the condition of your computer. Just because they say the name “Microsoft” doesn’t make them legitimate. Trust your instincts. Don’t let just anybody have remote access to your computer.

4. Why would the government ask my permission to get into my computer?
Think about it: The FBI, Homeland Security or any real federal or state agency wouldn’t give you the opportunity to elude them if they really wanted to come after you. Don’t buy that money card, as is suggested on your screen, so you can have your computer back. You’ll be out that money, as well as money you will then have to spend to hire someone like me, a computer repair service, to really fix your computer.

5. Did you get an email from your bank, insurance or credit card company alerting you to update your information?
If so, this is a phishing email. That email is so user friendly — they even provided a helpful link to their website for you to login. Stop! You’re not logging into your bank. But you’ve probably just given someone else access to your banking information.

6. Do you need to install new software to listen to music, see a video or shop on a website?
You may have downloaded something legitimate, but you didn’t see those other programs you were allowing to be installed also. This is usually how users get spyware, which is like a leech. Spyware attaches onto other living organisms that will give it life. That would be your computer in this case. But these leeches are never good. Spyware is there to annoy you; take over your Internet searching; slow down or lock up your computer and make you want to throw it out the window.

You might be laughing at all of this and saying to yourself, “I would never fall for any of these stupid things.” Well believe me, it happens to the best of us. We want so much believe that things like this won't happen to our computer, but they do. Don’t fall for the old Trojan Horse trick.

Remember, you can protect yourself and your computer. All it takes is a little due diligence by you, a good working anti-virus/anti-spyware program, and installing all computer software updates.

About this Angie's List Expert: Betsy Salomonsky is the owner of Sky Computer Solutions in Henrico, Va. She has worked in the field of IT and computer repair field since 1997 and the busiest part of her job, these days, is dealing with viruses, spyware and phishing attacks.

As of October 4, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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Illinois I-Pass users have been warned to not open emails with subject lines of "In arrears for driving on toll road" or "Payment for driving on toll road." (Photo courtesy the Illinois Tollway)
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That email about your unpaid I-Pass tolls? Yeah, it might be bogus, according to the FTC, which is warning E-Z Pass users in 15 states of a fraud email scam.

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