Cybercrime: How can you protect yourself?Date: June 22, 2006
“First and foremost, use common sense,” said Christopher McBee, network support specialist II for Ringgold Telephone Co.
Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers expressed similar sentiments.
“People, a lot of times, want to blame law enforcement for not doing enough,” he said. “The best protection that anyone can have is to educate themselves and protect themselves, especially when it comes to Internet crime.”
Of the various Internet crimes that have afflicted Catoosa County, fraudulent purchasing scams are number one, according to Summers.
“We stress to all people against purchasing and doing things on the Internet unless it’s on a system that has financial protection,” he said.
McBee said familiarity is a good way to gauge safety.
For example, he said, if you need to purchase something you are more likely to go to Wal-Mart or K-mart than to a random street vendor.
“For some reason people don’t have the same mentality when it comes to the Internet,” McBee said.
With the Internet, people are generally looking for a bargain,” he said.
Summers noted that if a deal seems too good to be true, “it’s probably a scam.”
“We’ve had a number of cases, like working through eBay,” Summers said. He said people had agreed to purchase jewelry and other items that turned out to not be what they were promised.
“Just stick with places you know,” McBee said. “If you’ve heard of them in real life, it’s probably safe to order from them (on the Internet).”
McBee said eBay has some safety gaps and it is best to use a security program when purchasing through these kind of sites.
McBee said there are programs like PayPal, which provides security services to individuals purchasing items on-line.
“It’s kind of like e-banking;” McBee said, “like a poor man’s escrow.”
PayPal will guarantee the return of your funds if the purchase turns out to be fraudulent and deal with the person on the other end, he said.
McBee said a number of sites have started using PayPal for security purposes and individuals can also visit the PayPal website (www.PayPal.com) to learn how to use this security program for other purchases.
“When you get on a site that somebody does not want to participate in one of those programs, you better look out because they are trying to take advantage of you,” Summers said.
McBee advised using money orders and certified checks when making Internet purchases rather than personal checks because of the receipts issued.
Anyone with an E-mail account has probably received a communication from a stranger soliciting funds with the promise of winning or receiving a grand sum of money in return.
“For some reason, some people think this is actually going to happen,” McBee said. “The chances are extremely low to nonexistent.”
McBee also advised that individuals with E-mail accounts be weary of correspondences asking for bank account information, which may pose as the actual bank itself.
“If you haven’t contacted your bank for something, they are probably not contacting you,” he said.
McBee said if someone receives an E-mail that appears to be from their bank, it is best to contact the bank by phone or in person rather than responding online.
McBee said it is a good idea for individuals to take their computers to a computer shop at least once a year to make sure everything is patched and clean.
“Especially if you have a broadband connection,” he said.
Patching, according to www.answers.com, is a short set of commands to correct a bug in a computer program.
“Patching is definitely key,” McBee said. “A large percentage of unpatched computers are affected (by viruses).
He said it is also important to have protective software installed. He said AntiVirus was the best program and Norton has received fairly good reviews.
McBee said America On-line has a good filtering system and there are large numbers of filtering software available on the market to block possible pornographic and offensive sites.
He said it is always good for a consumer to purchase filtering software from a company they’ve already heard of.
Although some of these programs may block sites that are not offensive, it is still beneficial to have.
“It is better to have a false positive than nothing at all,” McBee said in terms of protecting children from offensive sites.
He said the computer epidemic with children is similar to the problem of children watching too much television.
“It all comes back to sticking your child in front of the TV and expecting it to take care of them.”
Summers said the solicitation of minors over the Internet has occurred in Catoosa, but the Sheriff’s Department has not seen too many cases.
Summers advises that parents monitor their children’s computers on a weekly basis.
“That way they can get online and see who they are talking to and exactly what’s going on,” he added. “We stress to the parents that they can avoid a lot of this by removing the computer from the child’s room and putting it in a common area of the house.
“When you’ve got a loaded gun in the house, you have to be careful about where you place that gun,” Summers said. “You have to put it up in a safe area for the safety of the family; a computer is no different.”
Since many cell phones allow children to text and enter chat rooms, McBee said the phone bill can serve as a good indicator for parents if they see a lot of text messages.
“A large number of providers will offer some type of monitoring,” he said.
McBee said Sidekicks, also called Hiptops, are kind of like mini-laptops designed specifically for texting and messaging.
He said if someone is concerned about their children being solicited by sexual predators online, the best advice is to not allow them to have one.
“Paris Hilton had all of her information stolen off of hers,” McBee said. “It was posted on the Internet a couple of hours later.”
Know the computer
McBee said understanding the way a computer works as well as the Internet is essential in avoiding problems with cybercrime.
“A lot of people really do need a computer class in some way,” he said.
He said people were typically more likely to take a class or read a book to learn about hobbies or various interests than to do the same for computer skills.
“Most people just say, ‘No, no, I’ll get the hang of it,’” he said.
Avoiding cybercrime requires knowledge of the computer, keeping the computer monitored internally with protective programs and externally through good parenting.
“The best way to not be victimized by cybercriminals is to learn to police yourself,” Summers said.
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