A browse of news web sites this morning reveals that a new phishing scam has been identified. The phishing emails disguise themselves as being from Wachovia, one of several banks currently experiencing difficulties and at the heart of the current Wall Street financial crisis.
The phishing emails falsely indicate that they are a “Wachovia Corporation Notice” and request personally identifying information for the recipient to receive a “Wachovia Security Plus Certificate.”
In some reports, the phishing emails are said to contain a computer virus known as the “Gozi” Trojan Horse, which could result in an infected computer and personal data exposure.
As with any other phishing emails, individuals who receive this latest Wachovia email should simply delete it immediately without clicking any links within.
For more information on phishing scams and how to avoid becoming a victim, see our previous article titled Avoiding Internet Pitfalls: “Phishing” Scams. For tips on how to keep your computer from becoming infected with Trojan Horses and other viruses, see our previous post Avoiding Internet Pitfalls: Malware.
While the internet can bring a wealth of educational and entertaining information into your family’s home, there are also associated risks. For children and teen internet users, accidental exposure to inappropriate content (pornographic, violent, or offensive language or images) is possible. Also, as evidenced by Dateline NBC‘s To Catch a Predator series of sting operations, child predators may use chat rooms on the internet to try to establish contact with children or teens, sometimes posing as a child in order to establish a “friendship” and then attempting to meet face to face, with ill intentions.
In today’s post we offer the following tips to help parents keep their children safe from these dangers when online:
- Discuss the dangers with your children and let them know that caution must be used to protect their safety.
- Establish clear rules for your child’s use of the internet, as well as specific consequences for breaking those rules. Set guidelines regarding the time(s) of day that are acceptable for internet use, as well as a daily time limit. Discuss which websites and activities are appropriate and approved, and which ones are off-limits.
- Set specific rules about internet shopping. Either restrict your child from shopping online completely, or establish rules for approved shopping sites and limit amounts to be spent.
- Supervise your child’s online activities. Place the computer in a public part of the home (like the family room, living room, or kitchen) where supervision is easy, rather than in a bedroom where the child is likely to be alone.
- Establish which search engine(s) you will allow your child to use and prohibit the use of any other ones (again, with specific consequences for violations). Visit each approved search engine in your child’s web browser and click the Preferences link, then select the option for “strict filtering” of offensive images and language, then click to ‘Save’ the setting. For younger children, you may wish to prohibit the use of general search engines like Google and Yahoo entirely, and allow only the use of search engines designed specifically for children, like the CyberSleuth Kids Search Engine.
- Set your web browser’s preferences to filter out undesirable material. Most modern browsers allow you to filter images or websites based upon content (nudity, offensive language, etc.), or through use of a ratings system similar to that used for movies, with G, PG, and R ratings. Some browsers will also allow you to create a list of only parent-approved web sites which can be visited, while blocking all other sites.
- Set your Windows or Mac OS preferences to enable the Parental Control option… you’ll find this under the User Accounts settings. There, you can establish limits for content and usage for your child’s account on your computer.
- Check with your Internet Service Provider, as many now provide filtering and blocking features that can help prevent offensive material from being accessed through your internet connection. These should not be seen as a substitute for proper parental supervision, however, as filtering and blocking programs are not fool-proof.
- Encourage your child to tell you about anything seen or read online which makes him or her feel uncomfortable. Discuss the material appropriately; if the material was viewed by accident, do not place blame on your child.
- Require that your child pre-approve any chat rooms with you before joining. Many online games and websites aimed at children include chat rooms which are likely filled with other child participants… but these may also be targeted by child predators who pose as children.
- Insist that your child use an anonymous screen name in chat rooms, rather than his or her actual name.
- Tell your child to never reveal any personally-identifying information in chat rooms… this would include: first or last name, home address, phone number, names of family or friends, schools, and churches or after-school activities, as well as photographs. Also never to be shared are: passwords, email addresses, credit card numbers and social security numbers.
- Make sure that your child understands that any online “friendships” created through chat rooms should remain in the online world, and that your child should never agree to meet face-to-face with an individual met online. If an online friend asks your child to meet face-to-face, your child should inform you immediately so you can investigate accordingly.
- Check the browser history from time to time to see which websites your child has been visiting.
- If your child clears the browser history, preventing you from seeing which sites have been visited, install parental monitoring software to allow you to view the footsteps of your child’s online activities. If this makes you feel like you are “spying” on your child inappropriately, explain that you have added that function to the computer to ensure your child’s safety… in this way, you are not hiding anything from your child, and are taking proper steps to ensure compliance with your ground rules. Information on a number of monitoring software solutions with different features can be found here.
- Advise your child to inform you immediately if he or she ever feels threatened or “bullied” by anyone online, and to allow you to see the message or messages received. If you feel it is appropriate, contact the website which provides the chat room and/or the local authorities regarding the matter.
Additional helpful information on safe internet practices for children and teenagers is available from the following online resources: