Staying Safe Online

(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)

If you buy backing tracks online, then you probably do other types of shopping online too. Perhaps you even bank or manage your credit card online too.

If so, beware of phishing. Phishing is a method fraudsters are using to attempt to steal personal information from you. They achieve this by sending you emails which look real so fool you in to thinking they have come from a legitimate source.

I got an email purporting to be from Paypal telling me that I had to update my contact information. It asked me to go to their website and correct the information. That was a phish…an attempt to get private information for misuse by the senders of the email.

In the same batch of emails was another email from my credit card company to tell me my latest statement was ready to read online. That one was real.

So, how do you tell the difference?

Fortunately, usually you don’t have to. When you receive emails like this, whether it be from a bank, a credit card company, Paypal or any other company, first look and see if you’ve ever done business with that company.
If you have never done business with that company, delete the email and forget about it.

If you HAVE done business with that company, but you’re not sure if the email is legitimate or not, there’s an easy way to handle it.

Go to the company’s website and log into your account, but…DO NOT use the links in the suspicious email.

Don’t click on them.

Don’t copy and paste them.

Don’t re-type them as you see them in the email.

Instead, go to the site using a link from the email you got when you first did business with the company, and login that way.

Never, ever, ever, click on a link in a spam or a suspicious email.

Just don’t.

This is because the links can look legitimate. Sometimes the link you see (especially if the email is in html format), will actually be correct. The trick they use is that they hide a different link in the code.

Let’s say for example the domain the phisher wants you to think you’re going to is google.com. They might use a link that looks like this: http://www.google.com.secureorder.abc123.biz/loginpage.htm

The actual domain in the URL above is abc123.biz…and NOT google.com as they want you to believe.

You see what you expect to see – google.com, and you stop looking.

At that point, they’ve got you.

Worse still, if it’s an HTML email, the text you see for the link might be http://www.google.com, but you’d still end up at the wrong place because the link hidden behind the text is actually http://www.google.com.secureorder.abc123.biz/loginpage.htm.

Unlike regular stealing (where hackers have to spend time and effort trying to hack in to your information to steal it), phishing is a much easier tactic for fraudsters to employ because you actually GIVE them your information! Scary stuff.

There’s no way to learn everything you need to know about these issues in this one email from me, so you’re going to have to make the time to educate yourself about them if you want to keep safe online. I know you’re probably busy right now and this is the last thing you needed to hear! But you really need to do it. Here are a couple of places to begin looking.

This one is specifically about phishing attempts and how to avoid them:
http://www.fraud.org/scams

This next one is an excellent starting point for learning more about the general problem of online scams of all kinds:
http://scambusters.org/

Those two sites will give you the grounding you need to learn the more advanced stuff. I recommend that you spend an hour or so in the next couple of days reading up on this. Sign up for a few newsletters on the topic, and read them regularly. Stay informed, because this is a game of cat and mouse and the bad guys are constantly coming up with new ways to separate you from your personal information and your money.

If you haven’t been keeping up on this stuff and you haven’t been hit yet, you’ve just been lucky. Don’t count on luck.

Go now…Read…Be safe…