Category Archives: Safe Online Shopping Tips

Five Simple Tips To Prevent Cybercrooks From Screwing You Over During The Holiday Season

Unless you’re related to the Grinch, the holiday season will hit town. Guest writer Liz Cornwell, from Australian software developer Auslogics, has some important and informative tips on how you can avoid potential dangers while shopping online this Holiday season – or, any time for that matter.

imageThe holiday season is a time of year that is wonderful and special for everyone – it’s the time for having fun, being with your friends and family, giving and receiving presents, and even making dreams come true!

For me, giving presents is just as exciting as receiving them. And what fun it is to shop for gifts, knowing that they will bring happiness and joy to your loved ones!

I’m pretty sure that you will do at least some of your shopping online. It’s not a secret that online retailers offer great deals. But at the same time there is always a potential danger of your money getting stolen by shifty dealers, scammers, and spammers.

OK, so maybe some of you don’t mind giving a couple of hundred dollars to thieves. However, it would be much better to donate that money to charity.

If you want to protect yourself from online fraud, then read on! Here are five simple tips that will help you shop online safely.

1. Use a Secure PC

No matter how careful you are, there is no guarantee that your computer is not infected. Anyone who browses the Internet, visits social websites, and downloads software simply cannot be 100% sure that their PC is malware- and spyware-free. So, before you start shopping, check that your computer has comprehensive protection and run anti-virus and anti-spyware scans. Use reliable up-to-date software.

We recommend using Auslogics Antivirus – not only will it protect you against viruses, spyware, and other threats, but it also has a feature called Privacy Control. This feature is especially designed to prevent hackers from stealing your personal data, so shopping online will be more secure. Auslogics Antivirus has a free unlimited 30-day trial, which will keep you fully protected for the next month.

If you can, avoid shopping from public computers, or a PC that your kids use to play online games and chat with their friends. Those PCs are likely to be infested with spyware, so your private data can get stolen no matter how careful you are.

2. Always Shop From Trusted Sites

There are a lot of sites that offer amazing bargains. In fact, some of them are so amazing that they simply can’t be true! Well, most of the time they aren’t – a lot of websites only pretend to be shops. All they want is to steal your money. Remember, nobody is going to offer you a car for the price of a burger. Therefore, I strongly advise you not to use search engine shopping. Or if you do, check and double-check the website before entering any payment details.

Pay attention to:

  • security seals
  • shipping, return, and refund policies
  • use of secure connection (https://) when the website asks you to enter payment details

You can also research unfamiliar shops on sites like RipoffReport.

Never – ever buy anything advertised via emails from unknown senders and never click on any links in those emails either. Those emails are almost always a scam and links take you to websites that put viruses onto your system. And never shop at web-sites that ask you to wire money or send money orders.

3. Control Spam

If you’re concerned about getting spammed by online retailers, you can always either create a separate email address for shopping online, or create aliases. Here’s how it’s done using Gmail.

For example, your address is myemail@gmail.com and you are shopping at a website called greatoffer.com. So, when giving them your email address, type it as myemail+greatoffer@gmail.com. That way all future communication from that shop will be addressed to myemail+greatoffer@gmail.com.

So if they or someone from their network try to spam you, you will know it’s them and will be able to easily block them.

4. Pay With a Credit Card

Most of you will have several bank cards – some credit, some debit. Both can be used for online shopping, but it’s safer to use a credit card. Experts say credit cards give you less hassle when dealing with your bank, should unauthorized charges show up later on a monthly statement. Besides, you wouldn’t want to pay huge interest on your debit card overdraft, would you?

5. Think About Alternative Payment Methods

Did you know that you don’t necessarily have to use a credit/debit card when shopping online? There are plenty of other ways to pay for the goods you purchased – pre-paid credit cards, gift cards and certificates, and sometimes you can pay in cash upon delivery. Also there are websites like billmelater.com that allow you to shop online without having to enter your bank card details. Besides, online retailers actually encourage you to use a service like that by offering free shipping and an option to postpone your payment for up to 6 months.

These tips should help you shop online safely so that you don’t become yet another fraud victim. Enjoy your shopping and have a wonderful holiday season!

Regular readers are aware that I’m a big fan of Auslogics; a company which provides users with some of the best free applications on the Internet including, Auslogics Disk Defrag (recently reviewed here) – a “must have” addition to a serious computer user’s toolbox.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Cyber Criminals, Cyber Shopping Tips, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Guest Writers, Internet Safety, Safe Online Shopping Tips

Is Online PC Care A Scam?

imageIt finally happened! I finally got an unsolicited phone call from Online PC Care, a company which advertises – “instant support for all your computer related technical problems is just a click away” and “Online PC Care is the right place to resolve all your technical problems.”

I was well aware that many consider this type of online service (Online PC Care is just one of many companies saturating this market), to be an outright scam. Nevertheless, accepting the phone call and working through the sales presentation (which is effectively what it’s all about), was an opportunity to engage with a self described “technical expert”, that I couldn’t pass up.

Based on errors in Windows Event Viewer (which Charlie, calling from India, walked me through), the diagnosis indicated my PC was “pretty sick” – infested with malware, and pretty much ready for the scrap heap.

But luckily, there was a solution to this sad state of affairs – the purchase of a plan from Online PC Care – ranging in price from $120 (6 month Bronze Plan), to $200 for the (12 month Ultimate Plan). Or, a more specific Incident Based (Malware) Plan.

image

Click graphic to expand

Event Viewer system logs can look pretty scary to an average user despite the fact, that the event recorded is often insignificant. Here’s an example – the Event Viewer, in the following graphic, indicates that the Volume Shadow Copy Service on this machine failed to start on boot this morning.

This is not an unexpected event – given that I have disabled  this service. If the Event Viewer didn’t show this error, then, I’d have something to worry about.

image

Charlie, who was extremely polite throughout the phone call, focused on a more specific error reported by the Event Viewer – a display driver crash (numerous crashes, in fact). Charlie, then laid out a convincing scenario in which he led me, step by step, into agreeing that the crashes were directly related to multiple malware infections.

Malware infections that could easily be removed – if I agreed to allow remote access to my machine, provided credit card details, and purchased either a Duration Based Plan, or an “Incident Based Plan at a cost of $35.

It took all the patience I could muster, as I was led through the process, not to inform Charlie that the crashes were caused by a hardware acceleration bug in Firefox 4. My tongue is still sore from the number of times I bit down.

Eventually, rather than have to listen to the sales presentation again and again (a continuing focus of the phone call), I let Charlie know that he was full of s*it, and referred him to this Blog. Strangely, Charlie took the subterfuge very well, and disconnected only after apologizing profusely.

It’s a fair assumption that the number of average computer users being taken advantage of by unscrupulous online organizations like Online PC Care, has to be considerable. The sales presentation is slick, the “proof” of computer malfunction is convincing since the “malfunctions” are readily apparent in the Event Viewer. What could be more convincing than a series of neatly packaged Warnings, and Errors?

To add credibility, many of these online technical problem solvers will misrepresent themselves as either being associated with Microsoft or, working directly for Microsoft.

In this particular case, Online PC Care did not misrepresent their position and readily supplied the name, web site address, and the location from which the phone call originated.

That’s little consolation though, since the overall presentation was structured in such a way, as to attempt to fraudulently convince me I had serious computer problems, including a non-existing malware infection.

It’s discouraging to think that legitimate online computer technicians, who provide a much needed and valuable service, could be easily tainted by the number of scam artists who are now active in this field.

As always, I ask that you as an experienced computer user, be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates, particularly those who are new computer users, and let them know that this type of scam has reached epidemic proportions.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

40 Comments

Filed under computer repair, Don't Get Scammed, Interconnectivity, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, Remote Tech Support, Safe Online Shopping Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

Cyber Shopping on Black Friday? Six Tips From PandaLabs To Keep You Safe

imageCyber shopping on Black Friday can be very appealing – no lining up at midnight, no line ups at all, no risk of being trampled by unruly crowds, shop in your PJs if you like, “shopping around” and comparing prices is a snap, and the list of benefits goes on.

So, if you cyber shop, you may not face the risk of being trampled to death by an unruly crowd, or being shot to death by an angry shopper – both tragedies actually did happen on Black Friday, November 28, 2008. But, you will face substantial cyber security risks.

Staying safe while you cyber shop requires that you be much more wary, and that you understand that cyber crooks salivate at the opportunities Black Friday cyber shopping creates for exploiting the unwary and careless consumer.

Cyber shopping safely requires that you follow well established best practices that have proven to substantially reduce the risk of being victimized.

PandaLabs suggests holiday shoppers adhere to the following best practices this Friday and Monday, and throughout the holiday shopping season:

Avoid using search engines for locating special holiday deals. Criminals commonly turn to Blackhat SEO, which involves maliciously using search engine optimization around hot keywords to poison search engine results. Instead of using a search engine, go directly to reputable sites that you are familiar with. Screenshots of a recent malicious Black Friday search result is available at here.

Don’t click on embedded links in advertisement e-mails. E-mails that appear to be advertisements from legitimate vendors could be a well-disguised scam or malware attack. Chances are you’ll be able to find the same deal by going directly to the website in your favorite web browser.

Install all available operating system updates and patches. Cyber criminals are particularly skilled at exploiting critical vulnerabilities in operating systems and commonly used applications. Computer users are often silently redirected to a website with a carefully crafted malicious payload that leaves the computer infected with data-stealing malware or extortion-based threats. In addition to updating your system, PandaLabs strongly advises people to update Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and Java software, which are all commonly targeted by cyber criminals.

Don’t underestimate criminals. Cyber criminals have no limits, and will create fake advertisements, shopping carts, poison various search terms and more in order infect your computer and steal your personal data. If you’re unsure if a site is legitimate, run a search online to see if you can determine whether it’s widely known. If you can’t find details on a retailer, PandaLabs advises holiday shoppers to take their business elsewhere.

Only purchase from sites that offer secure browsing (SSL/https). You can tell if a site uses SSL/https if there is a padlock icon on the bottom corner or in the address bar of your browser. Some browsers like Internet Explorer and Chrome turn the address bar green to indicate that the site is secure. Even if a site uses SSL/https, remember that SSL only works to create a secure Internet tunnel between you and the e-commerce server. You can still transmit sensitive data over to cyber criminals, so it’s best to run frequent anti-malware scans.

Always use updated anti-malware protection. Despite growing awareness of today’s Web-borne threats, many people still don’t use even a basic anti-virus solution and leave themselves vulnerable to infections, data loss and identity theft. You can download Panda Security’s award-winning Panda Cloud Antivirus software, which is completely free, here.

About PandaLabs:

Since 1990, PandaLabs, the malware research division of Panda Security, has led the industry in detecting, classifying and protecting consumers and businesses against new cyber threats.

At the core of the operation is Collective Intelligence, a proprietary system that provides real-time protection by harnessing Panda’s community of users to automatically detect, analyze, classify and disinfect more than 63,000 new malware samples daily.

The automated classification is complemented by a highly specialized global team of threat analysts, each focused on a specific type of malware, such as viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware and other exploits, to ensure around-the-clock protection.

Learn more about PandaLabs and subscribe to the PandaLabs blog here. Follow Panda on Twitter and Facebook.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

4 Comments

Filed under Cyber Shopping Tips, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Security Alerts, Panda Security, PandaLabs, Safe Online Shopping Tips

Cybercrooks Gearing Up To Screw You Over During The Holiday Season

Five Simple Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Unless you’re related to the Grinch, the holiday season will hit town. Christmas commercials are already blasting the airwaves, despite the fact we’re barely past Halloween!

Guest writer Liz Cornwell, from software developer Auslogics, has some important and informative tips on how you can avoid potential dangers while shopping online this Holiday season – or, any time for that matter.

imageThe holiday season is a time of year that is wonderful and special for everyone – it’s the time for having fun, being with your friends and family, giving and receiving presents, and even making dreams come true!

For me, giving presents is just as exciting as receiving them. And what fun it is to shop for gifts, knowing that they will bring happiness and joy to your loved ones!

I’m pretty sure that you will do at least some of your shopping online. It’s not a secret that online retailers offer great deals. But at the same time there is always a potential danger of your money getting stolen by shifty dealers, scammers, and spammers.

OK, so maybe some of you don’t mind giving a couple of hundred dollars to thieves. However, it would be much better to donate that money to charity.

If you want to protect yourself from online fraud, then read on! Here are five simple tips that will help you shop online safely.

1. Use a Secure PC

No matter how careful you are, there is no guarantee that your computer is not infected. Anyone who browses the Internet, visits social websites, and downloads software simply cannot be 100% sure that their PC is malware- and spyware-free. So, before you start shopping, check that your computer has comprehensive protection and run anti-virus and anti-spyware scans. Use reliable up-to-date software.

We recommend using Auslogics Antivirus – not only will it protect you against viruses, spyware, and other threats, but it also has a feature called Privacy Control. This feature is especially designed to prevent hackers from stealing your personal data, so shopping online will be more secure. Auslogics Antivirus has a free unlimited 30-day trial, which will keep you fully protected for the next month.

If you can, avoid shopping from public computers, or a PC that your kids use to play online games and chat with their friends. Those PCs are likely to be infested with spyware, so your private data can get stolen no matter how careful you are.

2. Always Shop From Trusted Sites

There are a lot of sites that offer amazing bargains. In fact, some of them are so amazing that they simply can’t be true! Well, most of the time they aren’t – a lot of websites only pretend to be shops. All they want is to steal your money. Remember, nobody is going to offer you a car for the price of a burger. Therefore, I strongly advise you not to use search engine shopping. Or if you do, check and double-check the website before entering any payment details.

Pay attention to:

  • security seals
  • shipping, return, and refund policies
  • use of secure connection (https://) when the website asks you to enter payment details

You can also research unfamiliar shops on sites like RipoffReport.

Never-ever buy anything advertised via emails from unknown senders and never click on any links in those emails either. Those emails are almost always a scam and links take you to websites that put viruses onto your system. And never shop at web-sites that ask you to wire money or send money orders.

3. Control Spam

If you’re concerned about getting spammed by online retailers, you can always either create a separate email address for shopping online, or create aliases. Here’s how it’s done using Gmail.

For example, your address is myemail@gmail.com and you are shopping at a website called greatoffer.com. So, when giving them your email address, type it as myemail+greatoffer@gmail.com. That way all future communication from that shop will be addressed to myemail+greatoffer@gmail.com.

So if they or someone from their network try to spam you, you will know it’s them and will be able to easily block them.

4. Pay With a Credit Card

Most of you will have several bank cards – some credit, some debit. Both can be used for online shopping, but it’s safer to use a credit card. Experts say credit cards give you less hassle when dealing with your bank, should unauthorized charges show up later on a monthly statement. Besides, you wouldn’t want to pay huge interest on your debit card overdraft, would you?

5. Think About Alternative Payment Methods

Did you know that you don’t necessarily have to use a credit/debit card when shopping online? There are plenty of other ways to pay for the goods you purchased – pre-paid credit cards, gift cards and certificates, and sometimes you can pay in cash upon delivery. Also there are websites like billmelater.com that allow you to shop online without having to enter your bank card details. Besides, online retailers actually encourage you to use a service like that by offering free shipping and an option to postpone your payment for up to 6 months.

These tips should help you shop online safely so that you don’t become yet another fraud victim. Enjoy your shopping and have a wonderful holiday season!

Regular readers are aware that I’m a big fan of Auslogics; a company which provides users with some of the best free applications on the Internet including, Auslogics Disk Defrag (recently reviewed here) – a “must have” addition to a serious computer user’s toolbox.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

9 Comments

Filed under Auslogics, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, internet scams, Online Safety, Safe Online Shopping Tips