Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Be safe

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent a few days with our son while he recuperated from knee surgery.  Like other times when I'm away from home for a few days, I don't report where I'm going to be because I don't want people to know when I'm away from home.  I would like to advertise that I'm going to be somewhere for a workshop or event, but why tell potential thieves I'm not at home?  Social media is good and a very useful tool, but it can also be used to harm a person if we don't use some common sense.  I recently advertised some antique furniture in Craigslist.  I soon had an email  response saying that the person was interested in buying one piece and only needed some personal information to complete the payment.  DELETE!  I later learned that is a common Craigslist scam.

A few weeks ago I read an article warning people about leaving personal information in their car when they go to the movies.  Thieves break into cars in movie parking lots, get the person's address off their car registration and call their friends with the information.  They know they have about two hours before the people will return home.  I've read another warning for people who use a GPS in their car.  The article said to never use "Home" with your address.  Again, people are stealing the GPS from cars and using them to go directly to people's homes to rob them.  I would be cautious about even putting my home address in the GPS.  On my GPS I use the address of a local store as my home address.  I know that I can get home from that store, and if my GPS is stolen the only address they're going to get won't get them within a mile of my house.

Earlier this week a person on my email list was hacked and I received an email saying he was stuck overseas.  His wallet had been stolen, and he needed money to get back home.  I've received similar emails from supposedly from 5-6 of my friends over the years so it wasn't hard to delete that one.  You should also know that no dictator is fleeing the country and needs to use your back account to deposit a large sum of money into of which he will donate half to you for the use of your account.  There are also no widows in Nigeria who want to invest in your ministry.  I shouldn't have to warn people of these scams, but since they continue to generate millions of money for those who use them it doesn't hurt to remind people that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I've never understood the thrill behind creating a virus to attack someone's computer, but it seems that is all some people have to do in life.  If an e-mail looks funny, I don't open it.  I've had viruses on my computer, and they are not fun.  But, no matter how careful one is, viruses and spyware will get on computers.  I run a couple of spyware programs every 2-3 weeks or any time I think my computer is acting funny, and my virus protector is set to check my computer every night at 2:00 am as well as monitor my emails.

Being extra cautious takes time, but trying to fix problems takes even more time.  A few years ago I realized someone was using my credit card.  My bank noticed some suspicious purchases and called asking if I had made them.  I had not, so we cancelled that card and got a new one.  I have no idea who was using it or how they got that information.  Having a computer repairman come and clean viruses out of the computer takes time and costs money.  When I first learned about spyware my computer was filled with them.  It was running so slow I thought I was back on dial-up.  In addition to the spyware, he found three different viruses on the computer.  My old virus detector didn't pick up any of them.  An entire evening was shot with him fixing my computer problems plus I got to write him a nice check for his efforts.

I just want my readers to be safe.  Use common sense with your personal information and with what you share on your social media sites.  Be cautious with email and the Internet sites you view.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where they are people who wish to harm others, so protect yourself and your families.

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