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Malware - What Is It and How To Avoid It
Scam artists and criminals can sit anywhere in the world and target computers and smart phones. Unfortunately, there are a seemingly infinite number of ways you may encounter malware. Because of this, it is difficult to provide information on how to handle each and every situation you might experience. However, understanding more about malware and what to watch out for is a good first step in limiting the heartache malware can cause.
What is Malware?
“Malware” is a broad term that refers to malicious software. This software can take many forms including viruses and spyware. Depending on the purpose of the malicious software, it may simply be a nuisance causing your computer or device to repeatedly crash. Malware could also be a type of spyware designed to monitor computer use, steal personal information, or commit other types of fraud. With the emergence of smart phones and other web enabled devices, personal computers are no longer the only targets. Malware can also infect phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.
How to Avoid Malware?
E-mail has made a lot of things easier. You can send pictures, documents, and links to others in the blink of an eye. This also means scam artists and criminals can send you malware quickly, easily, and cheaply through e-mail. Sometimes, scam artists design innocent looking e-mails promising to link to a funny story or viral video. It may even look like it is from someone you know. Other times, scam artists may try to use fear, intimidation, or sorrow. They create official looking e-mails to trick people to download malware. Because scam artists seem to develop new scams daily, it is difficult to compile a list of every scam e-mail. However, two types of official looking e-mail scams seem to be common and effective.
Scam artists send e-mails claiming to be from a court. It states that you have been summoned to appear for a hearing. The e-mail often contains a link or an attachment that promises to provide further information. Unfortunately, clicking on the link or attachment can download malware onto your computer or device. More information from the FTC about this specific scam can be found here.
Scam artists have also been sending e-mails claiming to be funeral homes. The e-mail appears to provide information about a funeral service. Similar to the scam above, the e-mail will contain a link or an attachment that promises to provide further information. Instead, clicking on the link results in malware being downloaded onto your computer. More information from the FTC about this specific scam can be found here.
Besides staying abreast of the current or popular scams, following these tips can also help avoid malware problems..
A firewall helps make you invisible on the Internet and blocks all communications from unauthorized sources. It's especially important to run a firewall if you have a broadband connection. Operating systems or browsers also may offer free software "patches" to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.
More information from the FTC about malware and protecting yourself can be found here. For additional information about fraudulent e-mails, please see “Fraudulent E-mail Thieves Intend to Steal Your Personal Information.”
CONTACT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S CONSUMER PROTECTION DIVISION
Consumers may contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at: