As some of you know from hard experience, there are nasty people out there today who are scheming to trick unsuspecting computer users into falling for damaging viruses or divulging personal financial information. It's a sad-but-true situation. This tip is to offer some key pieces of information that can save you from falling victim to these scams.
The first thing to know -
Microsoft will NEVER contact you directly about security issues or patches. It is their standing policy to NEVER send out emails or pop-up Windows to tell you about security threats. If you get one, no matter how legitimate it looks, IT IS FAKE and you can be assured something bad will result!
The second thing to know -
If you receive a message which says something like, "Your credit card information needs to be verified for our records (or any other reason)", DO NOT RESPOND, EVEN IF IT SAYS IT'S FROM A COMPANY OR BANK YOU DO BUSINESS WITH. Legitimate companies do not use the computer to ask you for financial information.
The third thing to know -
There is no free lunch on the Internet. Nothing is free. We have all seen the ads for "1000 smiley faces for free". When you download the "free" stuff, along comes a bunch of cookies, spyware, programs you don't want, programs that run in the background without your knowledge, etc. At best, your computer runs slower and slower. At worst, you have attracted all sorts of pop-ups, spam, and who knows what else. It's your choice, but I recommend that you be very reluctant to accept "free" stuff off the Internet. You can always do a Google search for something similar and see if you can find a legitimate source.
Ask yourself this key question -
In all of the above situations, the key question to ask is, "Who initiated the contact?" If you go to a site and start a buying transaction, of course you will be asked for your credit card to pay for it. (Reread my tip from two weeks back about how to verify that you are sending your credit card info over a secure connection.) In this example, you initiated the contact. On the other hand, if you open your email one day and someone has contacted you asking for credit card information, don't respond. They initiated the contact and you should not respond.
I'm sorry the world has gotten so nasty and I'm sorry we have to be so on guard all the time. The sad fact is, we do. I hope this helps.
By the way, I am happy to take your phone calls if you ever have a question about something you've received through your computer. No charge.