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IronPort Offers 10 Tips to Avoid Spam and Online Scams this Holiday Season

December 2007 by Emmanuelle Lamandé

IronPort Systems, a Cisco business unit, publishes a list of tips for avoiding spam and staying safe from online risks. Spam volume increased 100 percent, to more than 120 billion messages daily worldwide. That’s about 20 spam messages per day for every person on the planet. More than 80 percent of spam comes from infected zombie computers. In addition, modern threats are becoming more collaborative, adaptive and intelligent. These threats fly under the radar, living on enterprise or home PCs for months (or years) without detection. IronPort anticipates that new threats will be increasingly targeted and short-lived, making them even harder to detect. The old attitude of "what I can’t see won’t hurt me" is no longer valid. Corporations and individuals alike need to educate and protect themselves from these nearly invisible, but almost always dangerous, threats. IronPort offers these tips to help avoid the dangers associated with spam and other online dangers:

1) Do Sign up for Identify Theft Protection
Most identify theft protection provides you with a personal credit report, so you can review your credit history and verify that it is current and accurate. Most services allow you to monitor your credit daily and will alert you to any suspicious activity – account openings in your name or inquiries into your credit files. Identity theft protection will also help you correct any errors in your credit file and ultimately can provide some insurance against fraud.

2) Don’t Use Your Primary Email Address
Using your primary email address anywhere on the Web puts it at greater risk of being picked up by spammers. Use a secondary or temporary account for online transactions.

3) Do Use a Temporary or One-Time Use Credit Card
When in doubt, use a temporary or a one-time use credit card. Most major banks can provide these types of cards to help avoid abuse.

4) Don’t Open
Whenever possible, do not open spam messages. Frequently spam messages include software that enables the spammer to determine how many, or which, email addresses have received and opened the message. A suspicious email is almost always spam.

5) Don’t Respond
The best way to deal with email messages from unknown or suspicious addresses is to delete them, or allow your spam filter to quarantine them. If you respond to a spam message, even asking to be removed from their list, you will have confirmed to the sender that they have indeed reached a valid email address and your inbox may become the target of even more spam. If you are unsure whether a request for personal information from a company is legitimate, contact the company directly or type the website URL directly into your browser.

6) Don’t Click
If you click on a link (even an "unsubscribe" link) offered in a spam message, you may infect your computer with spyware or a virus. Instead, delete the email immediately. If a message (that appears to be from your bank, credit card company, eBay, PayPal, or others) requests that you to click through to validate account details – don’t. They already have your account details, so validation or confirmation should not be necessary. Simply delete the message. If you have questions about an email from a familiar organization, contact them by phone.

7) Don’t Buy
Spam exists because it’s profitable. It costs almost nothing for a spammer to send a million messages. If even one in one million people buy something, they’re making money. Take the profit out of spam. Never purchase anything from spammers. Tell your friends and family to do the same – no matter how good the offer looks.

8) Don’t Believe Everything You Read
Forwarded warning emails and chain letters are more prevalent during the holiday season. Spammers can harvest good email addresses from these forwarded messages. After a few generations, many of these letters contain hundreds of good email addresses. Consequently, people who were worried about the "missing girl" or the "desperate refugee" find themselves not only passing on a hoax, but also the recipients of more spam.

9) Do Make Sure Your ISP or Company Has Spam, Virus and Spyware Protection
Spam emails are very often connected with viruses, so it’s critical to have both anti-spam and anti-virus protection. Spam messages often include links to websites with spyware or malware. Check with your ISP or IT department to make sure you have adequate security against these kinds of threats. Having spam, virus and Web-based malware protection at the gateway can make a significant difference

10) Do Use Your Common Sense
If it looks like spam or an online scam, it probably is. Delete it.

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