Staying Off the Hook

July 19th, 2005

Leigh Ann almost got got. I’ve almost gotten caught too. Here’s JT’s rule for not getting caught by the phishers: don’t take the bait. Never, absolutely NEVER click any link in email that’s not from somebody you know personally. It’s as simple as that. Never click on those links.

OK, so you get a scary message from your bank claiming they’re going to delete your account and confiscate your funds if you don’t click on “the link below” and verify your account information. Don’t fall for it! If you’re really worried about your account, you can call the bank (or eBay) like LA did. Or you can do this:

Do a Google search on the bank’s name and click on the link that points to their web site. (Or if you have the bank bookmarked use your bookmark.) What’s important here is to get to the bank without using the link in the email. Now log into your account. If there’s anything important about to happen to your bank account it’ll tell you right there after you’ve logged in.

A scary report on the news last night described how the scammers and phishers are now stealing keystrokes right off your keyboard. You download that browser bar, auction helper tool, or game, and it’s a Trojan Horse for a spyware keystroke logger. When you install the software you downloaded, you also install the keystroke logger. It sits silently in the background, recording everything you type, including your passwords, and sending them to the bad guy’s site (these days probably in Russia).

How to avoid this? First, never ever download free utility or game software, especially if it comes from a site you’ve never heard of! Stuff from Google is OK, as is stuff from Yahoo and Microsoft. Avoid pretty much everything else. (If you’re not sure, write and ask me.) This is hard to do, but one way to accomplish it is to simply not let anyone else – friends or family – use your computer. That sounds harsh, but these days it’s a sound policy.

The second thing you can do is to download, install, and use an adware/spyware detection tool. One good one comes from Lavasoft and it’s called Ad-Aware. Microsoft makes their own tool that is also pretty good. These tools will detect, and in many cases remove, spyware from your system. Of course, you should also have antivirus software and make regular backups.

Finally, an article on the New York Times web site the other day describe a spyware/adware solution that is becoming common: throw the computer away and buy a new one. Expensive, but effective. The preferred solution would be to wipe and reload your computer with a fresh operating system. Better to just avoid the spyware in the first place!

One Response to “Staying Off the Hook”

  1. Leigh Ann Says:

    Good sound advice. Like I said, I am embarrased that I even CLICKED on it! I’m so brain-washed to know that the ones from banks are bogus, but this one just passed the radar all together (maybe it WAS the blow to the head!). I’m going to have my kids read this…..