Tuesday, June 02, 2009

TechTeach, Issue Eleven

Last issue we looked at differences between browsers. And there are quite a few to pick from. This week is about a few things to look for using them.

Some people do their banking online. I prefer to type the address to my bank by hand each time I go. Never use a link from an email. Your bank will never do business via email, always through real mail or a phone call. If you click on a link from an email, you could be going to what is called a “phishing” site. That is where people at the other end hope you will enter your ID, password and account information in the fields on the resulting page. Then, with this information, they can access your accounts.

When you do get to what you are sure is your bank’s page, you should look for a few things on the site. You should see a padlock in the lower right corner of the window. You should see the address bar turn yellow to alert you that this is a secure connection. And you should see clearly posted link to a privacy policy. If these things are missing you should close your browser, re-open it and try typing the URL by hand. When I go to my bank, the actual URL is stated with the padlock, the URL for the log in page start with “https” (the “s” stands for secure, and the http part means Hyper-Text Transport Protocol), and the Privacy Policy is clearly at the bottom of the page. And they provide a phone to call if you have any concerns about emails or private messages. There is also a link to current scams on my bank’s login page.

You should also see these indicators when you do on-line shopping. Stick with major or well-know stores. Many offer you the ability to return items purchased over the Internet to a store instead of mailing the item back. I did that a few times with a computer case I wanted from Best Buy, it kept getting cracked in the shipping. Third time was enough. If you are not comfortable with completing the transaction on-line, many sites will have a phone number you can call and talk to a real person, or you can even chat in real-time with someone. Dell offers live chat on its site.

And, as I mentioned in the last newsletter, keep your browser as up to date as you can. You should always install the newest version or accept any updates via Microsoft Updates. These are very important in keeping untoward people out of your computer and away from your bank accounts and other personal information.

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