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Avoiding Spam, Scams and Computer Viruses

By Garth Catterall-Heart
Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2004

One of the most popular pages on is about avoiding scams, hoaxes and urban legends on the Internet ( Here are a few ways to avoid some of the perils associated with being connected to the rest of the world.

As a general rule of thumb, beware of any offer that sounds too good to be true. This applies to products being offered on the Internet and especially to any unsolicited offer or spam you receive in your email. Many of these are scams.

The term "spam", in case you don't know, refers to any unsolicited bulk email. If it's not addressed to you, or you don't recognize the sender, or you're being asked to buy something or pass along questionable information, then that's spam. My advise is to "can the spam" by immediately deleting any email you receive from anyone you don't know.

The best way to avoid spam, is to be very careful about who you give your email address to. My advise here is to set up a free email account and to give this email address to anyone you don't absolutely trust with your personal information. It almost never does any good to fight back against spam. Your best course of action is just to delete any unwanted email.

A trick that has been pretty successful for me is to set up an email rule (or filter) that automatically sends any mail ot addressed to me to a special folder. Most of this is spam and can be easily disposed of.

In addition to spams and scams, the other thing to watch out for on the Internet is hoaxes, urban legends and false information. There are many of these floating around the Internet these days. Beware of any email that asks you to send money for any cause, or to forward the email to all your friends. Almost all of these are hoaxes. An excellent
resource for information on hoaxes, urban legends and false information is (

Another category of hoaxes involves virus warnings. If you receive information that indicates you can get a computer virus from doing anything except opening an email attachment or running an application, then this is probably false information.

Most computer viruses are spread by users opening email attachments that contain the virus. NEVER OPEN AN EMAIL ATTACHMENT THAT YOU ARE NOT EXPECTING. Even if you know the sender, make sure the attachment is legitimate before opening it. It is much safer to delete any questionable attachments and ask the sender to resend them than to assume that the sender intended to send that email.

Your best defenses against computer viruses are:
1) caution in downloading programs from questionable sources,
2) regularly scanning your drive with virus protection software, and
3) backing up all your important data to a different drive or media (floppy, Zip or CD-ROM) as soon as possible. By doing all of these, if your system does get infected, you can restore it with a minimum of hassle.

Always check out any offer or information you receive before sending any money or forwarding the information to someone else. That way you can rest easy knowing you aren't getting scammed or passing along an urban legend.

About the Author
Garth Catterall-Heart. is an Internet Guide for new users to the Internet. Learn about browsers, e-mail programs, search engines, making money, avoiding scams, creating and promoting web sites, and some simple tips for a better web surfing experience at (


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