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Pandemic reality number one: people are home and, on their computers, more than ever. Pandemic reality two: the more people are online, the more vulnerable they might be to online scams. In fact, experts estimate that one in four computer users have received a Covid-related phishing e-mail. Nothing is sacred and that’s why phishing remains one of the top ways computer users fall prey to internet thieves.
"Phishing" is a term used for computer hackers who attempt to get you to reveal information that can then be used to exploit your email or computer account. While you can have a security program running in the background, you still need to be on your toes to be able to detect a phishing attempt that gets by your security system.
“Phishing e-mails are very subtle and often look quite legit,” said Paul LaFlamme, owner of the Worcester, MA-based IT firm Centrend. “Knowing some of the red flags that come with a phishing e-mail can help you avoid some major problems with your computer, your online reputation and, in many cases, identity theft.”
LaFlamme’s first piece of advice is to make sure of the source of the e-mail. If it’s not from someone you know or if the domain name in the e-mail does not match the company it says it’s from, delete it.
Password verification e-mails also pose a potential risk. Many phishing e-mails will request you to click a link and then provide your e-mail and password. If you did not start that process (e.g., forgot your username or password), do not click on the link. If its from a company/website you recognize, log on from your browser, typing in the domain, and then log in.
“Where people get fooled is when the sender seems familiar,” said LaFlamme. “Just remember, companies usually don’t send out those types of e-mails on their own. Typically, it’s in response to a request from you.”
To further safeguard against phishing attacks, LaFlamme advises against using the same password for multiple websites.
“Phishers can smell patterns. Using the same password for every login can make you easy prey,” said LaFlamme. “I recommend using LastPass or similar password storage apps. With these apps, you just need to know your one password to log in and you can store the username and password for all your other sites.”
Adds LaFlamme, “LastPass and other apps like it are particularly valuable as our computer time has increased during the pandemic and a lot of folks have let their guard down a little.”
With offices in both Worcester and Sturbridge, Massachusetts, Centrend provides on-site Information Technology (IT) managed services and consulting to business customers throughout New England. Those customers include companies in the manufacturing, real estate, finance, insurance, legal, non-profit, construction and hospitality industries.
In addition to its medium- and small-business customers, Centrend has a home consumer division, Whiz Kid Support. Material for future podcasts will also include the issues impacting many remote workers and home-based businesses.
For more information on Centrend, visit https://www.centrend.com/