Thank you to everyone who writes with things to ask or tell. Here is a sampling of recent reader feedback. Please keep it coming!
Last week’s column about the current iTunes scam (http://rlis.com/columns/column467.htm) generated plenty of comments. Many of you wrote to say you’d just received the iTunes email too.
Several readers wondered how spammers got their email address in the first place. The short answer: People use “harvesting” programs to scour the internet and copy text that contains the @ sign, or they might use a brute force program (which is just guessing words from the dictionary at a very high speed) to produce a list of possible email addresses. Spammers then buy the email addresses obtained or guessed at and bombard the addresses with spam. Or, you might have actually provided your email address to a spammer on a website without realizing it.
This article provides a good, brief overview: http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/scamsandidentitytheft/f/spamemailaddresses.htm. An excellent, more detailed discussion is here: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/spam.htm.
A few readers were confused about what “hover your cursor over the link” in an email means. What you need to do is place your cursor (without clicking anything!) on a link in an email. That link might look perfectly fine until you look at the bottom of your email window to see if the link does not actually go to the correct site.
Additional feedback came from people who warned of the Netflix scam (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/netflix-scam-put-users-credit-cards-personal-information-at-risk/) and several Facebook scams (http://www.2dayfm.com.au/scoopla/trending-now/blog/2014/8/10-facebook-scams-people-actually-fall-for/). An interesting twist came in an email from someone with an actual Amazon account who found he’d been charged for an Amazon Prime membership without consenting to it.
My advice up to that point was, “If you get a message about an account you don’t have, ignore the message!” But now I have to add that even if you HAVE an account with someone, watch the account activity and the credit card activity closely. Some banks offer a service that sends a text message or an email or both every time your credit card is used. Irritating, but apparently necessary.
Up or Down Feedback
The July 8 column (http://rlis.com/columns/column466.htm) mentioned several websites you can use to check if Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, or other websites are unreachable for everyone or just for you. I received an email from the owner of a similar site, CurrentlyDown.com, here: http://www.currentlydown.com. He points out:
What's cool about it that it provides historical outage data for you to explore. We also try to research the cause and the status of the outage and take screenshots whenever possible.
Faithful readers will know that I recommend an antimalware program such as Malwarebytes or SuperAntiSpyware in addition to whatever antivirus program you’re using. A customer wrote me last week:
I am concerned about the number of tracking threats when a scan is done on SuperAntiSpyware. They are quarantined and removed after each scan.
I’ve long maintained that while SuperAntiSpyware is a good program, calling Tracking Cookies a “threat” is overstating it. And it turns out that the makers of SuperAntiSpyware kind of agree. This comes from the SAS website (http://www.superantispyware.com/supportfaqdisplay.html?faq=26):
Are cookies really spyware and are they dangerous?
This subject has been the debate of many newsgroups and online forums. Cookies are simply text files stored on your hard drive and cannot themselves harm your computer in any way. Typically cookies are used to remember logins and keep track of user settings on web-sites.
Cookies can be used to track your movement on the Internet ONLY if a site is aware of the cookies and is designed to use the specific cookies. Because of their use in tracking, many feel that this constitutes spyware.
We do not consider cookies to be threats of anywhere near the same level of severity as actual malware threats that can steal real personal information, serve ads, or render a computer unusable.
SUPERAntiSpyware will detect tracking cookies as "Adware.Tracking Cookies" and you can choose to remove them or leave them on your system. You may turn off this feature in the Preferences -> Scanning Control tab of SUPERAntiSpyware should you not wish cookies to be scanned, detected and removed.
Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!
Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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