Whenever something good comes along, it seems that someone will try to spoil it. The result is that society as a whole must adapt to protect themselves from the predators. This can affect many areas of our lives.
Most of us are all too familiar with computer viruses and junk e-mail (spam). And most of us know about malicious software (malware) that pops up ads or tracks our surfing habits. Fighting all of this has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
For years the telephone industry has been plagued by unethical persons who "slam" subscribers to another long distance provider or "cram" them with unwanted (and often expensive) services, and all through a computer hookup. It can take weeks or months to untangle the damage.
There have been a number of well publicized scams over the years. Some of these work so well that they never seem to go away.In the Nigerian Scam, you are sent a cashier's check and asked to send payment to someone else. The cashier's check bounces but yours doesn't.
A Toner Phoner may call to ask about your copy machine and your printer. Later you receive a large quantity of toner, a large bill, and threats if you refuse to pay.
Even before the Katrina hurricane had left the Gulf states, scammers were setting up shop to bilk people who wanted to contribute to relief activities.
Indentity theft is on the rise. So is the theft of laptops and computer disks with sensitive information. In mid-June 2006 some 26 million veterans had their personal information put in jeopardy when a laptop was stolen from the house of a Government official. Since then either the number of cases has escalated or people have started reporting it for fear of legal action.
When you register a domain you must furnish certain information to your domain registrar. This information is available to the general public through the "Whois" record for every Website. Scammers go through these records looking for domains that are due for renewal.
We regularly receive "invoices" advising us to remit $25 or more to renew our domain. This is far more than the $8.75 we pay at PlanetEagle. In the process, we would be switching our domain registrar to an unknown service, possibly having to pay extra for services that we currently enjoy for free.
Read the Internet and Security pages on our sister site. There is a wealth of information about scams and security and more is added from time to time.
Buy a good security package for your computer. Our favorite is Zone Alarm Suite but there are other good packages as well. We have recently started using Webroot Spy Sweeper for additional protection from spyware. Click here to see our software resources.
Call your phone company and have them place a "PIC Freeze" on your account. That prohibits others from changing your long distance service until you call to authorize it. They can also set up a system whereby you must furnish certain information before they will discuss your account.
When using a cell phone or a pay phone, be aware of who is around you. Keep your voice down and do not reveal personal information in public. Trains and shopping malls often have ears that are itching to hear what you have to say.
Scammers use the element of surprise to their advantage. If you are caught off guard or if you don't know what you are being asked, just remember that you are under no obligation to talk to any telemarketer who calls or to reply to anyone who sends you e-mail.
Buy a paper shredder. Shred all checks, credit card offers, and other papers that bear your personal information. We suggest purchasing a heavy duty unit with a cross-cut blade. Cheap shredders don't last very long so plan to spend a few dollars for a good unit. We have named our shredder "Check Fillet".
If you have a laptop spend $30 or so on a locking cable, which most laptops will accept. When saving files, save with a password and / or use encryption. Just don't lose your encryption key. Never leave a laptop in the open where it can sprout legs. And don't store sensitive data on it in the first place.
If you have registered one or more domains, consider using your domain registrar's service to hide your identity from the world. Under this scheme a third-party company registers your domain name but you retain all rights to it. Rates vary; PlanetEagle charges $8.75 per year per domain but some registrars charge quite a bit more.