Protect yourself from online scams

Published 11:00 pm Friday, June 8, 2012

Gone “phishing.”

That’s what happened when dozens of Pike County folks received a suspecious email this week from the well-known headmaster at a local school. The email, reportedly sent from the headmaster, pleaded with the recipients to send cash because she’d been stranded while traveling out of the country. Those who knew her knew it was untrue, but still some wondered.

The email is just one of hundreds of scam or “phishing” ploys in which nameless and faceless hackers seek to prey on victims via the Internet.

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And with this incident, it’s a good time to once again take stock of your personal cyber safety.

Consider these tips, offered by

1. Do not assume a credible-looking Web site is credible. Anyone can create a Web site that looks legitimate.

2. An old financial cliche that has been around much longer than the Internet applies to Web deals, too: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Your Social Security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Do not give it out.

4. Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you and claims to be from a company with whom you have an account like a bank, credit card or phone company. If they ask for information that the business already has, do not give it to them. Call the company independently, using the contact information on your statement or from the official Web site.

5. Do not follow the unsubscribe instructions in unsolicited e-mail. In many cases, it only verifies your email address – you will get even more junk e-mail.

6. Email addresses or Web addresses that have a company name in the address are not necessarily from that company. Go to the official Web site for contact information.

7. Do not open email attachments from unfamiliar sources. They could contain malicious programs designed to steal your personal information.

8. Keep your computer protected. Having anti-virus software is great, but you also need anti-spa

9. Complicate your passwords. Don’t use a word or number easy to guess, such as your significant other’s name or birthday. Change them frequently.

And by all means, call and verify if you receive an email from a supposedly “stranded” friend.