Unfortunately, spam and text messages have become part of everyday life. A recent email received from a Berkshire Eagle reader asks, “I wonder why I always get so much spam when I’m not doing much on the computer. I’m emailing a few friends and order a few things. I don’t fill out warranties or fill out surveys except at the doctor’s office. Any suggestions? I have Bit Defender.
Much junk food is not criminal activity, but part of the aggressive marketing of our internet providers and online search engines. Companies like Verizon, Consolidated, Comcast and Spectrum share information with their affiliates. Google, Twitter, and Facebook are known to share data with advertisers and even sell contact information. Free services have to make money somewhere, and it’s not by charging us a fee. I often comment: “If you access the service for free, you are not the consumer; you are the product.
Ways to quit junk food
If it’s from a legitimate company, they usually include a link to “Unsubscribe”, which is only safe if you’re sure the company isn’t fake or an impostor. Positive verification is relatively easy. With a website, the website URL (address) should display the business name, spelled correctly, with “.com” immediately following the name. Scammers use misspelled names or include a real company name somewhere in the address to trick you.
If you cannot verify the legitimacy of the sender, do not click unsubscribe. This lets the sender know you’re a real person and sets you up for more spam. Simply clicking on a link may provide information to the website creator, such as your location, the type of computer used, the identification of the web browser used, the type of operating system of the computer and even the specific address of your computer. Also, resist the temptation to upload documents unless you absolutely know the sender.
Notify your internet service provider of unwanted messages and ask them how you can filter them. In many cases, they can filter or at least pre-select malicious websites or emails and alert you.
If you receive spam from the same sender, you can adjust your email program settings or preferences and create a rule that puts any message from that name or address in the trash. This won’t stop the messages, but will move them to the trash when they arrive, so you won’t see them in your inbox. I don’t use PC or Outlook, but if your email address is Microsoft (@msn.com), the software offers filtering to deal with unwanted emails, as pretty much all email software does. However, the features of email software are not the same as for all programs. Apple is very good and helpful if you use Apple Mail. Other IT companies will direct you to a specific software vendor, so if you are using Microsoft Outlook you will need to contact Microsoft customer service. Another source of help is to contact where you purchased the computer.
Malware and virus protection programs such as BitDefender deal with malware and viruses; they do not deal with spam or deceptive websites. Regardless of the computer’s operating system, Apple, Chrome or Windows, you must keep the protection software subscription up to date in order to protect yourself against newly developed malware (Note: Apple devices are not sheltered). Often we become willing accomplices of criminals or victims of aggressive and deceptive marketing. This is where human nature comes in. Expensive prize bids for simply answering a survey, high yield investments, emotional appeals, extreme scarcity, authority/credibility, or emergency situations break down our defenses and open us up to victimization. Whatever the message, especially when it comes from a stranger, step back and reflect. Let logic and reason guide your actions online.
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. Questions, concerns? Contact [email protected]