Phishing - “You get a line an’

              I’ll get a pole”

Do you remember those lyrics? I remember singing that song when I was a little girl. Back then fishing meant casting your line and waiting for an unsuspecting gilled friend to swim by, take the bait, and get hooked. Unfortunately, there is another type of phishing (or pfishing) going on these days.

Phishing is a type of identity theft where fraudulent e-mails are used to trick consumers into disclosing personal and financial information. These e-mails appear to come from companies that you may conduct business with such as credit card companies and banks. Often times the e-mail will threaten to terminate your account if you do not update billing information. These types of e-mails are designed to “lure” information from unsuspecting consumers. Keep in mind, no legitimate company will ask you to reveal sensitive information via e-mail.

Many of these e-mails will contain links to “look-alike” websites that contain actual trademarked images. The website will look very authentic. The consumer will be instructed to reenter info such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, date of birth, etc.  DON’T DO IT. If the consumer provides the requested information, the data goes to the scammer (person who sent the e-mail), not the legitimate company whose name is on the site. The scammer can then use the information to order merchandise or services and obtain credit in the consumer’s name.

Always be cautious of unsolicited e-mails requesting personal information. The following tips could prevent you becoming a victim of identity theft:

  • Be skeptical of warnings that accounts with be canceled if you don’t reconfirm your billing information.
  • Don’t click on the link - Get out an old bank or credit card statement and call the telephone number that appears there.
  • If you do submit financial information on a website, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar to insure your information is secure during the transmission.
  • Avoid sending personal or financial information via e-mail whenever possible.
  • Always check your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges each month.

I am a firm believer in the motto “better safe than sorry” so please be cautious when you are conducting business via the Internet. No longer does fishing (or phishing) conjure up the image of someone sitting on a creek bank under a large shade tree with a cane pole.  



My Computer is Sick.      
It Has a Virus!

Anyone that has had a computer for any length of time has probably had the misfortune of it being infected by a virus. A computer virus is a software program that is designed to replicate (reproduce) itself so it can spread. When the virus-infected program runs, the virus code is activated and attaches copies of itself to other programs in the system.

Some viruses are designed to wreak havoc to your computer by damaging programs, deleting files and reformatting the hard disk. Others are designed to just make their presence known by presenting unwanted and annoying text, video and audio messages. However, even benign viruses can create problems by taking up computer memory and causing your computer to run slowly.

An e-mail virus moves around in e-mail messages replicating and automatically mailing itself to people in the victims address book. Some viruses remain hidden in your computer system and are activated on a certain date. For example, the Michelangelo virus infected computers on Michelangelo’s birthday. Viruses can also spread by saving an infected program to a disk and then sharing it with others. The virus spreads from the first computer to every computer that loads the infected disk.

If your computer begins to act in a peculiar manner such as locking up, displaying strange messages, running slowly or your Word documents contain text you didn’t type; these effects may be symptoms of a virus infection. The only way to be certain your computer has a virus is to scan your system with an up-to-date version of anti-virus software. The virus protection software may be able to remove the virus as well as detect it.

There are things you can do to minimize the risk of your computer becoming infected.
1. Ensure that you have up-to-date virus protection installed on your computer.
2. Don’t open an e-mail attachment you are not expecting to receive.
3. Be cautious of using floppy or ZIP disks that belong to someone else.
4. Backup important files on your computer in case you ever need to recover from a major virus infection.

If your computer has ever been infected by a virus you may share my sentiments. I find it extremely irritating that people have nothing better to do than sit around creating computer viruses that cause problems for others. Why don’t they use their intelligence to do something constructive and worthwhile?

When I hear the word “virus,” not only do I think cold, flu and stomach. I now think “computers.”