Unfortunately, spam and text messages have become part of everyday life. A recent email received from a reader of The Berkshire Eagle asks, “I wonder why I’m still getting so much spam when I’m not doing much on the computer. Just email a few friends and order a few items. I do not complete warranties or complete our surveys except at the doctor’s office. No suggestions? I have Bit Defender.
Much of the junk food is not criminal activity, but part of aggressive marketing by 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.
Here are some ways to stop some of the junk:
• If it’s from a legitimate company, they usually include a link to “unsubscribe”, which is a safe action 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 after the name. Note: Scammers use misspelled names or include a real company name somewhere in the address to trick you: “www.walmartdeal.com” or “www.walmartt.com”.
• If you cannot verify the legitimacy of the sender, do not click on “unsubscribe”. This lets the sender know that YOU are a real person and prepares you to receive 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 preselect malicious websites or send 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 email 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 don’t see them in your inbox. I don’t use a PC or Outlook but if your email address is Microsoft (@msn.com), the software offers filtering to deal with unwanted emails, like almost all email software.
However, the functionality of email software is not the same for all programs. Apple is very good and helpful if you use Apple Mail. Other IT companies will direct you to the 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 like BitDefender deal with malware and viruses, not spam or deceptive websites. Regardless of the computer’s operating system, Apple, Chrome, Windows, you should keep the protection software subscription up to date to protect yourself from 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.
Questions, concerns? Contact me, [email protected]
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, Mr. Scammer, distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, VT – www.gnat-tv.org