Archive for August, 2014

Charity Scams

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There are people on the Internet waiting to exploit your generous nature. A little research can help your charity dollars reach those that you intend to assist.

Research is only the first step. Next there are a number of warning signs of fraudulent charities. Unless you have previously given your email address to a particular charitable group, assume that any email you receive from a charity is bogus. Clicking on a link enclosed in such an email could also create a pathway for malware to enter your computer.


Also, beware of “charities” that:

  • Won’t provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
  • Refuses to offer proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Has a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money, or offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

So you’ve decided to make a donation to a particular charity. Your wariness shouldn’t end there, however.

Be certain the website of the charity you’ve chosen uses encryption technology before entering sensitive information such as credit-card numbers or bank draft information. Check the URL: http:// is not secure, while https:// is secure. There should also be a key or padlock symbol located in the corner of the web browser. If you’re uncertain, contact the charity by phone or email before donating.

Also investigate the group’s privacy policy, so that you know how your personal information is being handled.

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CyberVor Russian Hacker Data Breach

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Keep your Data Safe

Keep your Data Safe

Data security has once more been brought to the public consciousness in recent days with the revealing of the largest data breach in history.

A gang of Russian hackers, nicknamed CyberVor, stole 1.2 billion username and password combinations, along with more than 500 million email addresses, from 420,000 sites. They did this using botnets, computers that have been infected with and controlled by a virus.


What does this mean for the average internet user? Increased vigilance and prompt action, to keep accounts secure.

Here’s some steps to protect yourself:

  • Change passwords, especially if you’ve been re-using them on multiple sites (even though you know you shouldn’t, as that makes life easier for hackers). Make them stronger and longer, a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using personal information in your password words.  Security firm McAfee recommends blending unrelated words together with numbers and symbols (i.e. “Mutant2Cows!ontheloose). Don’t just stick numbers and symbols at the end, but mix them in.
  • If remembering multiple passwords is too daunting a task, consider getting a password manager to store your passwords. Among the free ones are Lastpass (, keepass ( and Norton Identity Safe (
  • Enable two-factor identification on any sites that offer it. When you use a different computer, the site will issue a code via text or email that you must enter to access your account, another layer of security.
  • Check your accounts for unauthorized activities. This doesn’t mean just your financial accounts. If hackers get into your email account, they can access any site you’ve visited via email. So check your sent folder for any emails you didn’t send. Always keep an eye on your social media for any status updates.

Don’t depend on sites to protect your security information. Take these simple steps to guard yourself.

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Stop the Unwanted Emails

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Stop unwanted email

In our last blog entry, we addressed ways to prevent unwanted email. Now we will explore methods to block and report spam that does make it to your private email address.

Most email providers have systems in place to block and report unwanted email. Following are directions for three of the biggest providers:

  • Gmail: Most unwanted email automatically gets detected and sent to a spam folder, and is deleted after 30 days. If you get a message that you feel is spam, check the box next to it and click the “Report Spam” button in the top tool bar. Conversely, if you find a message in your spam folder that you feel is legitimate, check it and click the “Not spam” button.
  • Yahoo!: Yahoo’s spam filter is strong and catches most unwanted email automatically. If you find a message you consider spam, check the box next to it and click the “Spam” button in the upper tool bar. You can use your Blocked list to stop senders and domains, but that’s likely to provide temporary relief, as spammers change addresses and domains regularly.
  • Outlook: Outlook’s Junk Filter is set to Low protection, which catches the obvious spam. You can increase the filter’s strength by clicking the Home tab, then Junk, then Junk Email Options. Under the Options tab, select the setting you want for your filter (each are describe there). Also a number of third-party spam blockers can be installed into Outlook, for advanced and updated filtering.

Reporting the spam can hit spammers where it hurts most: in the pocketbook.

Before deleting unwanted email, forward it to [email protected], the spam box for the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC investigates a suspect email, and if it is spam, the original sender can be charged $500 per email. The more email from the same spammer, the more likely that it will be investigated.

Another place to report unwanted e-mail is anti-spam groups such as Spamcop (, which tracks spam back to its ISP and reports it.


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