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Friday, April 27, 2012

Hoax Warnings vs. Real Warnings & You

We've all seen them.  Someone posts an email, a status update on Facebook, MySpace (blech), etc, and it usually says something to the effect of "DO NOT ADD [insert person's name]!  This person is a [insert hacker, pedophile, sex predator, or some automated implanted virus].  While there may be some truth to this, I would exercise caution on these warnings about certain individuals to your Facebook/MySpace/Whatever!  There are individuals out there who would love to prank an unsuspecting victim with a virus, or a video clip that is embedded with a virus.

Admittedly, I fell victim to something like this years ago on MySpace, and to date, my entire internet-connected family thinks it was I who initiated the whole thing.  Bottom line, if the video clip doesn't seem like the kind of thing your friend or family member wouldn't post, i.e. Grandma posting a pornographic video clip that just doesn't seem like something she'd do, or post an obscene message, it's a good bet that either her account has been hacked, or someone imitated your Grandmother's name, sometimes a very obvious misspelling, and posted to your wall.  In other words, don't click the link.  Contact your friend or family member by phone, or talk to them in person if possible, and get the facts straight.  My suggestion is to not jump to conclusions about any link, video clip, picture post or any other post that seems out of character for that person.

With all that being said, I stumbled across a message from a friend on my Facebook account from about a "Don't Add" Warning!  While I understand it's message of caution, I like to think that people would use common sense.  A few things to think about when seeing these warning messages:

1) Do I know this person / website / organization?  If the answer is no, it's a good bet you're not going to add them anyway.  In fact, the names listed will probably sound like generic names that could be just about anyone in the world trying to glean information off your PC using a keylogger virus, or by some other method.  This opens up your friends list (especially on Facebook/Twitter/MySpace) to their list of targets.  In other words, EXERCISE caution whenever possible.

2) Do I recognize that email address?  Hackers are pretty sneaky, and there are some REALLY gullible people out there who think to themselves "Oh that must be....[insert relationship status here with a name]!  I guess I just wrote their email address wrong!"  You'd be surprised how often this is the case.  If there is any doubt in your mind, and I mean ANY doubt whatsoever, my personal suggestion is do NOT add that email address or handle ID to your Instant Message programs (Y! Instant Messenger, AIM, MSN/Windows Live Instant Messenger, Skype, etc).  Better to be safe than sorry later.

3) Have I contacted this person without the use of a computer?  If the answer here is no, there's no need to go any further.  Just delete the request, and move along with your daily social media and instant message usage as normal.

The key piece of logic to remember here is that if they don't sound like someone you know, you're better off getting a complaint by phone from that friend rather than risk getting scammed.  I refer to my previous blog entry here Email Spam and You where it mentions "If it's too good to be true, it's probably not true."  The opposite can also be applied here.  "If it sounds too far fetched and bad to be true, it probably is."  If you're ever unsure, contact a PC specialist in your area.  Many offer a free or low-cost consultation.  If you're concerned about privacy, find a member of your family that has some extensive troubleshooting experience.  You may end up saving yourself some time, some frustration, and of course the biggie, MONEY!!

Have a comment? Suggestion? A topic you'd like to have discussed on my blog? Email me at And if I don't know the answer, I'll post up information on who to ask, where to go, or what to do to get your answer. :) Until then, have a great day, and I hope you've enjoyed reading my computer tips so far!