Become Familiar with Common Computer Crimes

Do you know about the computer crimes that could put you in danger?

We all know about computer crimes -- but then again, how much do we know, really? When you think of computer crimes, do you think of hackers slipping into bank servers to examine financial records, or someone sending you a fraudulent email?

The thing is, both of those -- and many other activities -- are computer crimes. Some are more likely to affect you than others, though, and those are the crimes watch for and be ready to deal with.

Common crime: Phishing

What is it?

A criminal sends a fraudulent email claiming to be from a familiar company, usually requesting either money or personal information, often noting that if you fail to respond you somehow lose your account.

How to prevent it

Big businesses don't do business by chain letter, and they never request personal information over email. If you suspect an email might be legitimate, do NOT respond to it: contact the company directly to confirm the request.

Common crime: Spyware

What is it?

Spyware is a type of virus that installs itself on your computer. This virus doesn't crash your system like some might. Instead, it quietly watches everything you do and reports back to its creator, enabling them to commit future computer crimes in your name. Spyware is used for everything from monitoring sites you visit so advertisers target you more effectively to obtaining access to your bank accounts.

How to prevent it

Use your common sense and take the same precautions you would to avoid downloading any virus. Never download anything from a site or email you don't completely trust, and install Internet security (preferably a firewall) and virus protection to safeguard your computer.

Phishing and spyware are the two most common types of computer crimes affecting regular users. Don't worry about someone gaining access to your bank records by hacking your bank -- businesses have strong safeguards and insurance in place to protect against those possibilities. Worry instead about your own computer. Practice safe Internet skills and don't take anything for granted -- those are the best ways to stop computer crimes in their tracks.

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