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It’s the holidays, which means scam artists are more than willing to forego the holiday spirit for a little bit of sticky banditry. You could be clicking from site to site, looking for inspiration on what to get little Tommy or Tina, and then before you can shut down the browser, it’s already too late. Internet scammers suck, but they are an ever-prevailing threat.

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So how do you avoid getting burned?

Do not click on pop-ups that say you have a virus

When you do, the “anti-virus” protector advises you to download software to eliminate the virus that isn’t actually in your computer. This is called scareware, and it will take your computer hostage so you can’t access or complete processes. Usually to undo this, hackers will demand payment. Teach friends and family to only respond to notices from your anti-virus provider. If you’ve got Norton installed, only click on pop-ups from Norton. Anything else is trash. Often the ‘x’ is disabled, and while this isn’t the ideal solution, it’s probably best to turn your computer on and off again. Otherwise, if you’re on a PC, press CTRL + ALT + DEL and search task manager for the insidious process that’s running (it’ll be anti-virus something). And if you’re on a Mac, press Command + Option + Escape to bring up running processes. Again, find what’s running and force quit that nonsense.

dangerous Virus

Do not give out your password information to anything, including Facebook

Social media usually offers the option to search through your e-mail contacts to see if any of your friends are using the service. Don’t use this function ever. It seems super-convenient, but it could lead to some pretty troubling times. Not only does this give social media access to this contact list (forever), it can lead to endless notices being sent to everyone you know. And linking up your e-mail account using your password means that everything you use is permanently associated with that account. Which means, if a hacker ever gets your e-mail password by whatever means, they are essentially given a key to your entire digital life. Like, they can take over your Amazon account, your e-Bay account, and well you get the idea. So, no, don’t give your password out for convenience. You can search for people on your own time, without the help of a program. It takes a bit more doing, but getting your life back after some fairly easy hacking will take way more time. When you sign up for sites online, use a dummy e-mail that is exclusively for your social media.

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Do not use the same password for everything

With keylogger software so advanced these days, it’s actually quite easy to deduce what your password might be. That is, if you’re using the same password everywhere. Keylogger software can be downloaded to your computer by clicking a foreign link in an e-mail (from a random sender you don’t know), or by clicking random pop-up ads that claim to offer random things like free iPads or virus protection. So, here’s how you solve this online dilemma: make many unique passwords (at least three, but more is always better in this case), and keep them in rotation.

And make passwords impossibly hard to crack, using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, and numbers. If you can use special characters (some sites won’t allow ’em), use ’em. The more passwords you have, the less easy it will be to crack your secret code. If people can’t crack your secret codes, they can’t steal your money or identity swiftly. At that point, most people would back a way and move on to their next mark.

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Do not ever give out personal information or your social insurance number

If you are getting an e-mail from a legitimate business, they will NEVER in a million years ask for this information over e-mail. This is a hard rule. They will never do that. Make it an absolute rule of thumb to NEVER give out information with abandon. Identity theft becomes super-easy when people put their guards down and stop thinking about the question why? Can you think of a reasonable reason why someone would need access to your passport information, your SIN number and your banking details via e-mail? You can’t, because companies NEVER do this. And if they’re asking for this information via e-mail, report them to the Better Business Bureau.