Avoiding Internet Scams
Or NO that nice young man reporting broken links on your site ( or offering you a free infographic [ or telling you there are errors keeping you off of page one of the googlies] ) is NOT actually trying to help you have a better website – a comprehensive guide, part one.
Chances are if you own a website you get them, and being as plugged in as we are we see plenty of bogus emails ourselves, but it’s also something clients and friends, and family, and random strangers forward to us and ask us about on a weekly basis: Is this email real? Can you please fix my broken website errors?
Well, the good news is in most cases ( especially if we designed it! ) your website is fine and there is nothing to worry about. Also, in any case the individuals sending these emails have likely never even been to your website much less have any insight into its performance.
Unfortunately, these sort of spammy emails do represent a real potential security risk and can result in unexpected system downtime and repair cost. Even some of the less malicious automated emails which mostly request you to link to their website serve as a source of wasted time and digital resources at best.
Know The Signs!
The best way to protect yourself – of course in addition to a good antivirus and anti-malware program – is to know what a spammy or virulent email looks like so you can avoid them.
In most cases they can be very easy to spot if you know what to look for, but here are some quick tips:
- Any unsolicited email offering a service should be suspect.
- Anyone reporting some issue with your site and then requesting that you link to their website(s).
- Generic or robotic sounding content / misspellings or frequent grammatical errors.
- Offers to get you to the first page of Google.
- Notices of expiration or renewal from companies you don’t have accounts with.
- Requests for personal information.
- Requests to add script code or images ( “infographics” ) to your website code.
Even if you accidentally open a suspicious email you may not be infected with any kind of virus, so don’t panic, and you shouldn’t hesitate to forward any strange emails to your webmaster ( that’s what you pay them so well for, right?! ) and ask their opinion.
Some good basic tips to stay safe if you’re exposed to an email you think might be malicious include:
- Do not click any links in the email – even if they look like they’re from someone you know.
- If you need to login, open your web browser separately and go to the website by typing in the address ( do not click links to login in an email ).
- Never provide SSN, Credit, or other sensitive information via email.
- If you use a program like Outlook to check mail turn off the “preview pane”.
- Do not add code to your site if you don’t know what it does.
- Do not open any attachments.
Spam Spam Spam Spammity Spam
These sort of dangers exist beyond the world of email, as you’re likely very familiar with the nice young lady calling “from google” to help verify your business listing if you’ve owned a domain very long. The easiest thing to understand is that in most cases Google, Godaddy, Paypal and most other big services will never directly call you, especially for anything other than to sell additional services, unless you already have a ticket item open with them. Any offer that sounds too good to be true generally is. Never give away sensitive information to a company, even over the phone, if you don’t know who they are or are not expecting their call.
A new kind of phone scam includes fake craigslist ad replies. It starts with calls from different phone numbers from people asking about an item for sale on craigslist that you did not list. If possible do not answer the call at all as the first few calls are “soft touches” to see if a real person answers. Initially you will think this is just a case of someone creating an advertisement with your contact info by mistake, but it is not. The people on the line will generally ask about radio equipment or some other items, or leave voicemails much to the same effect. Never give out any information to these people. The calls will come in repeatedly and at all hours of the day and night – if you can block them do so; if not the best course may be to confront the individuals and let them know that you’re wise to their scam, at which point they will usually lose interest.
It’s a jungle out there; this is only a glimpse of the various kind of scams, spams, phishing, and scheming that you may encounter online. If you’re diligent you can eliminate a lot of the risks, and by using tools like a whitelist, filtering rules, or training your gmail to recognize spam — but even the best of us get caught by the baddies every now and then.
We recommend running cleaning programs at least once a month, or more if you are frequently online, and being sure to backup your files often in case there is a breach in security. Beyond that just be as careful as you can, use common sense, and be just a little bit suspicious of any communication you didn’t initiate.
Too late? Already got the sickness in your machine parts? Don’t call us! Web development, seo, social media, consulting – all that we do, computer troubleshooting not so much! We leave that up to our good friend Tim Cook, founder of PC Techmate, and owner of Cooks Computer Service. He offers great computer repair services – even remotely! – as well as handling the dreaded Windows 10 upgrades. Visit his Facebook page for more info on what he does – and tell him a geek sent you!