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Avoiding Spam, Scams and Computer Viruses

Written By: Garth Catterall-Heart

One of the most popular pages on about-the-web.com is about
avoiding scams, hoaxes and urban legends on the Internet
(http://about-the-web.com/shtml/scams.shtml). Here are a
few ways to avoid some of the perils associated with being
connected to the rest of the world.

As a general rule of thumb, beware of any offer that sounds
too good to be true. This applies to products being offered
on the Internet and especially to any unsolicited offer or
spam you receive in your email. Many of these are scams.

The term “spam”, in case you don’t know, refers to any
unsolicited bulk email. If it’s not addressed to you, or
you don’t recognize the sender, or you’re being asked to
buy something or pass along questionable information, then
that’s spam. My advise is to “can the spam” by immediately
deleting any email you receive from anyone you don’t know.

The best way to avoid spam, is to be very careful about who
you give your email address to. My advise here is to set up
a free email account and to give this email address to
anyone you don’t absolutely trust with your personal
information. It almost never does any good to fight back
against spam. Your best course of action is just to delete
any unwanted email.

A trick that has been pretty successful for me is to set up
an email rule (or filter) that automatically sends any mail
not addressed to me to a special folder. Most of this is
spam and can be easily disposed of.

In addition to spams and scams, the other thing to watch
out for on the Internet is hoaxes, urban legends and false
information. There are many of these floating around the
Internet these days. Beware of any email that asks you to
send money for any cause, or to forward the email to all
your friends. Almost all of these are hoaxes. An excellent
resource for information on hoaxes, urban legends and false
information is http://urbanlegends.about.com/index.htm

Another category of hoaxes involves virus warnings. If you
receive information that indicates you can get a computer
virus from doing anything except opening an email
attachment or running an application, then this is probably
false information.

Most computer viruses are spread by users opening email
attachments that contain the virus. NEVER OPEN AN EMAIL
ATTACHMENT THAT YOU ARE NOT EXPECTING. Even if you know
the sender, make sure the attachment is legitimate before
opening it. It is much safer to delete any questionable
attachments and ask the sender to resend them than to
assume that the sender intended to send that email.

Your best defenses against computer viruses are: 1) caution
in downloading programs from questionable sources,
2) regularly scanning your drive with virus protection
software, and 3) backing up all your important data to a
different drive or media (floppy, Zip or CD-ROM) as soon as
possible. By doing all of these, if your system does get
infected, you can restore it with a minimum of hassle.

Always check out any offer or information you receive
before sending any money or forwarding the information
to someone else. That way you can rest easy knowing you
aren’t getting scammed or passing along an urban legend.

About the Author

Garth Catterall-Heart
About-the-web.com is an Internet Guide for new users to the
Internet. Learn about browsers, e-mail programs, search
engines, making money, avoiding scams, creating and
promoting web sites, and some simple tips for a better web
surfing experience at http://www.about-the-web.com

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