Aging Well

Keeping Your Email Safe

Email and instant messaging (IM) make communication with friends, family, business associates and health care providers so much easier than it used to be. But with the convenience comes vulnerability. Your personal information – from bank account numbers to health information – are targets for identity theft. The Internet security company McAfee has some suggestions on how to protect yourself:

Get some good security. A program should protect you against viruses, worms, Trojans, phishing scams and even unwanted emails. Make sure the program will send you automatic updates and upgrades, the McAfee experts say.

Don’t give out your email more than you have to. The experts at McAfee say that only your family, friends and trusted business or professional contacts should have your personal email. Share your e-mail address with only trusted sources. Don’t post your email publicly – for example, in forums or chat rooms – because someone may pass it on to others. If you want to subscribe to newsletters, think about getting a separate email account exclusively for that.

Remember that attachments can be dangerous even if they’re from friends or family. You can get a virus or a worm just by opening the attachment. If you want to open it, make sure your security software is enabled, and don’t proceed if the software warns you about the attachment.

Be careful when opening attachments and downloading files from friends and family or accepting unknown e-mails. You can obtain a virus, worm, or Trojan simply by opening e-mail and attachments, and by accepting files from your friends, family, or others. McAfee says that if you do want to download an attachment, your security software is working, and if you get any warnings from it, don’t ignore them.

Keep information sent on IMs to a minimum. Use a nickname for your screen name, McAfee suggests. Send as little personal information as possible. Don’t admit strangers into your group. And be especially careful at work, the experts say, because employers may monitor your messages.

Beware of phishing. These scams use fake emails and websites to appear as if they’re legitimate businesses. If you get an email that includes a link to a business website, don’t click through. Instead, the McAfee experts say, open a new window and go directly to the business site. You can also call the company directly.

Use e-mail wisely. E-mail is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, and as a tool to conduct business. Even if you have good security software on your PC, your friends and family might not have the same protection. Be careful about what information you submit via e-mail. Never send your credit-card information, Social Security number, or other private information via e-mail.

Never reply to spam. Even unsubscribing could just result in getting more spam, the McAfee experts say.

Don’t have an obvious email address. If you make it less obvious (such as adding numbers) hackers will have a harder time getting hold of it. You can use numbers and other characters, for example.

Don’t have an obvious password. Make it harder for hackers by using capital letters and numbers, the experts say.  You can also make it more than six characters long.

Avoid pop-up screens. Some phishers will send you to a real company’s site, but a fake pop-up screen will appear with blanks to fill in information. Software that blocks pop-ups will prevent this kind of attack, the experts say.

McAfee, a subsidiary of Intel Corporation, is the world’s largest internet security company. For more information on their products, and additional articles about computer safety, visit




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