It has been just over three months since my last post and it has been a long three months. January through mid-March is extremely busy due to pep band, tournament, and coaching volleyball. I have a number of posts laid out over the next few months so I promise if you check back on a regular basis you will finally see some new posts as I have missed it!
The FCC is claiming that almost half the phone calls you receive in 2019 will be spam. It is estimated that over 85% of all email sent is unwanted. A majority of spam phone calls are attempts at getting money out of you and a number of emails have the same goal. So what are some things you can do to protect yourself and those around you?
At the start of each school year, we meet as a staff and go through the usual beginning of the year meetings. I always have a presentation I make to staff about changes to technology that have happened over the summer and anything else they need to know. Two years ago I had situations arise almost monthly where a staff member or student had fallen victim to one of these phone calls or emails. On opening day of this current school year, I decided to devote some time in my presentation to raising awareness with some common sense approaches in dealing with spam calls and emails. The one thing I emphasized heavily was, be skeptical and this year I have only had to deal with one incident and the individual didn’t fall victim but wanted to double check that it was an actual spamming situation.
My rule in dealing with phone calls and I know not everyone can do this is to only answer calls from people I know. If I do not know the person calling my saying is if it is important, they will leave a message. If you have to answer a call and it is someone claiming they are from Microsoft, Apple, or anything else tech related and they can see you have an issue and can help you with it, hang up immediately. None of these companies keep track of individual computers and know if you have a virus. Any phone calls made to you that involve your computer are malicious and need to be hung up on right away. This rule goes for pretty much everything, your bank, the IRS, credit agencies, etc, will not call you. If you want to be sure if your bank calls, for example, don’t take it but go to their website and call the number shown on the website and call that number directly so that you know you are actually talking with that specific institution, again, be skeptical.
If you or you know someone that falls victim to one of these phone call scams and gives them their credit card, call the credit card immediately to freeze the card and dispute the charges and I would even look into getting a replacement card. Check out my post on the Privacy app as that would help a ton in this area. If you let the company onto your computer by downloading a program they send you a link to install turn off your computer immediately and take it to a reputable shop and explain what happened. I would wipe the computer as you just never know how deep they installed a tracking program or some other malicious software.
Dealing with spam email can sometimes be a little more challenging as it is very easy to fake who sent the email. Never click a link in an email unless you are 100% sure of who sent you the link and even then I will right click the link and copy the link URL and paste it into my browser to see where it goes first. If the link looks good I’ll go ahead and go to it but if something seems off, be skeptical! Just like with phone calls your bank won’t email asking you to change your password, the IRS won’t email you looking for information, etc. If you receive an email from them about a password change and you are not sure about it, go to the bank site not by clicking the link in the email but by going to the site directly. Most likely the link is to a fake site made to look like your bank site and as soon as you put in your info they have your login information. This is why using a different password for each site you use is essential and using a password manager is important. Check out my post on LastPass to see one example of a good password manager.
If you are skeptical of your phone calls and emails it will save you a lot of trouble. After you have this mindset for a while you will quickly see the red flags when something doesn’t seem right, trust that sense. If you receive an email from your boss that seems out of character give them a quick call or swing by their office and just ask them if they sent you that email. We had a situation in our school earlier this school year where an email showed up from our principal saying they had to cancel a meeting and to click a link in the email to reschedule. The way the email was worded was completely out of character for our principal and no one in our district fell for it because they were skeptical from the beginning.
Just remember as Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars said, “It’s a trap!”