How to Protect Yourself from Online Scares

Imagine one of these online scares scenarios: You receive an email which appears to have been sent from your own email account. The sender claims to have hacked your computer and proves it by showing a password. The password may or may not be the password to your email account, but it is a password that you used.

The email’s author goes onto claim they have proof of porn sites you’ve visited, naughty videos you’ve watched, or other important and private information only known to you. They claim you must pay them a ransom in some form of online currency like Bitcoin or they will send out all of your private information. This can be pretty scary.

Did Someone Hack Your Account?

Or is this just a scam to extort money from you? This particular scam was actually showcased on ABC News because of how often it appears to be happening.

No. It’s Another Targeted Phishing Email

This type of phishing email is another targeted email from nefarious people who know something about you. In this case, the ‘hackers’ may have gotten your password info from a site that was hacked and had a password you used. Thus, this is the main reason you should not reuse passwords. Since so many people reuse passwords, the password they sent in this scam may very well look familiar to you.

How Can You Tell it’s a Scam? 

By reviewing the emails header information you can determine that the email was not sent from your email account. This is called email spoofing.

How to protect yourself from online scams

Be Wary of Clicking a Link in an Email: Never click on a link in an email unless you are absolutely sure it is legitimate. If in doubt go directly to the source. For example, if the sender claims to bank, go to your browser and type your banks web address directly into the browser bar. Or verify the old fashioned way by picking up the phone and calling. Here’s some more ideas on how to protect yourself from email phishing scams.

Don’t Reuse Passwords and Setup a Good Password Security System: We keep saying it again and again. Simple passwords anyone can guess. When one system gets cracked bad actors will often try the same passwords on other sites.  We’ve written an article on password security.

Don’t Whitelist Yourself: In many spam and phishing filtering services, it’s easy to allow a known user to send you spammy email. It’s so easy that you may have inadvertently allowed or whitelisted yourself. If your getting phishy email purporting to be from you, check.