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Tech Talk

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By Corey A. Washington

Talk is cheap, but the advice I plan to give you could be your financial salvation. Previously, in my introduction column, I talked about my crusade to empower the African-American community with knowledge on technology - it's a pivotal element in modern society that we have either neglected or excluded ourselves from for various reasons.

As I stated before, fear has had an overwhelming affect on Blacks according to the feedback I've received from experts. But now I have something else to say: that fear is often warranted.

Maybe you've heard the term 'phishing' (pronounced like fishing). Phishing is an internet scam created by hackers posing as legitimate corporate companies. They solicit e-mails to your account in an attempt to have you share your information. That information could range from your social security number to account numbers.

Now, you're probably thinking you're smart enough to avoid such a ploy ... that's possible. But yours truly was surprised to get his first phishing scam in his e-mail account last week ... and another one yesterday!

These e-mails are very well-disguised. They include the same style, fonts, and graphics as many well-known financial institutions.

I recently started an account with a particular financial institution about a month ago - two weeks prior to receiving the e-mail. The e-mail I received was mimicking the same financial institution I joined.

But I knew from the beginning that no financial institution would ask for ONLY my account information and not some sort of other information to verify my identity. Imagine if I disclosed my personal information to this scam.

Well, I can tell you for sure what will happen. As a result, the information you provide to the program is routed back to the author - the hacker who created that particular program. The length of time it takes for the information to travel back to the hacker is almost instantaneous. It would be less than advantageous for me to try to paralyze your tech senses with fear if I am trying to engage your minds. I want readers to take chances with technology, but make wise choices. Here are a few ways to decipher a phishing scam:

1. Spelling errors.

These e-mails are usually filled with spelling and grammatical errors. Whether that is intentional or not is unclear.

2. Account Information prompt.

Normally, you are required to log into a web site after being routed to the web page from your e-mail.

3. Vague address information.

Most e-mails you may receive from a bank of lender address you by your first name or full name. Don't trust e-mails such as this which address you by your e-mail screenname. For example: corey123@fakemail.com.

But there are also a few steps you can take to prevent yourself from ever receiving these type of e-mails.

1. Limit who receives your e-mail address.

This lets spammers intrude on your e-mail account, and poses a potential threat.

2. Install an Encryption program.

This fragments data your computer sends and receives making it difficult for intruders to interpret. Many of them are free. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for more information.

3. Install a Firewall.

Once again, your ISP should be able to help you with this. Many ISPs include it in their service.

No one should have to feel vulnerable and the last thing the African-American community needs is another reason to be denied the opportunity to participate in one of life's everyday necessities: technology.

For more information, log onto www.coreywashington.com .

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