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Five crucial tips for using the internet safely

Internet Safety for You and Your Family

By Sandra Rohrstaff

I have a great “tech guy” whose business is helping families and small businesses keep their technology products running smoothly. So, every time I have a question or problem, I send him an email (if it is not “down”) or call him to ask for help. On more occasions than I like to admit, the cause of my problem has been the person I see when I look in the mirror. I have accidentally gotten into an internet site that infects my computer with viruses and Trojan horses.

“But, how can that be?” I wonder. “I am not the kind of person who goes looking for internet trouble.” Frankly, it’s not that hard. Here is one example of what happened when I entered a search term that had more meanings than I meant.

I had read an article many years ago about errant electricity from an outlet near a body of water that had been wired incorrectly. I entered the search term “hot marina” (the wiring was “hot” and the article had been about errant electricity at a “marina”). Imagine my surprise when the results were not anything like I expected. Rather, they had something to do with women called Marina and . . . well, you get the idea.

My point is that the internet is here and, as far as I can tell, it is here to stay. There are scammers out to steal your money and spammers out to cause you problems and websites you would rather not know about that will attack your computer. The mechanism for harm may be new because it is digital, but the warnings are the same ones we have heard all our lives:

  • Don’t believe everything you see and read (phony people post phony links and blog posts and websites, often for the purpose of selling something to you).
  •  Be sure you know who you are dealing with (don’t open emails from people whose names you don’t recognize).
  • Check and verify (your friend’s email may have been hacked, so if the message is “weird” and there’s a link in it, don’t click on the link – check first).
  • Be careful who gets your credit card information and Social Security number.
  •  Think about your search terms before clicking on search results (ala hot marina). 

Sandra Rohrstaff
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Virginia Child Injury and Elder Abuse Attorney