Hardware firewalls, disposable email accounts, Microsoft's Anti-Spyware program and more: Internet ScamBusters #110
We have had so many really good questions lately that we could easily fill 20 Q&A issues. So, we decided to do a Q&A session today -- and we'll answer these five questions:
- What hardware firewalls do you recommend?
- How do I create disposable email accounts as you recently recommended?
- What is the best course of action to take for someone wanting me to wire excess funds from a cashier's check when he buys my car?
- How do you explain your outrageous practice of misspelling [spaham] intentionally in your newsletters?
- What's your opinion on Microsoft's new Anti-Spyware program?
Finally, since ScamBusters usually deals with very serious topics, we thought we'd end today with a little humor. (No, we didn't make the last question up...)
Internet ScamBusters Q&A
Question: In ScamBusters Issue #106, you mention that hardware firewalls are more secure than software firewalls. What hardware firewall do you recommend?
Answer: Before we answer your question, here's an important bit of background: in most cases, when you set up your cable or DSL connection to the Internet, your cable or phone company will tell you to plug your PC or Mac straight into their modem, which is just like plugging your computer into the Internet.
This is a bad idea.
Instead, you want to plug your computer into a simple hardware router. A simple hardware router will contain a built-in firewall suitable for home or small business use. You get the added benefit that you can run multiple computers off your broadband (cable or DSL) connection.
We like and use Linksys routers. You can find them costing $40 (USD) and up. For example, in the US, Staples has a Linksys BEFSR41 10/100 Broadband Router for $59.99.
Keep the software firewall on your PC turned on as well.
Question: How can I create or find a throwaway email address that you presented a few weeks ago?
Answer: You can read all about disposable email addresses under Tip #3 on the stop spam page here.
The company we use is:
Question: I am selling my car on autotrader.com and I have detected someone trying to scam me. Basically, he wants his friend to give me a cashier's check for $5000 (I am selling the car for $2500) and then I am to wire him the difference. I have all the emails if you want them for examples. What would you suggest my best course of action is?
Answer: You are right that it's a scam. Your best course of action is to delete the emails and not correspond with the scammer.
We definitely do NOT need copies -- please do not send them. We have hundreds of examples already.
You can read the details of this scam under the heading: "The Single Biggest Question We Are Being Asked Right Now" here.
Question: In the email version of your newsletter, you often write: "Spaham solicitations (misspelled intentionally to get through the filters)."
I think all of your readers deserve an explanation, because this practice seems outrageous to me and others.
First, anyone that is actually scamming or spamming isn't going to use the terms in their own communications. How stupid would that be?! That would be like a guy filling out an employment application at his local bank and, when asked for current or former occupation, he writes "embezzler." D'oh!
Second, any filters that are set to trigger on the words scam or spam are just pretty much stupid, too. Why would any filters be set to nuke such words, when the real scammers aren't going to use them, but you and your friends may use them to discuss the culprits who perform the unsavory acts?
Anyone who has their filters set to seek and destroy all references to scam and spam deserve to have their computers melt down right at their fingertips!
Can you please explain to me and the rest of your readers why the practice of misspelling "bad" words is a useful tool?
Answer: Actually, you are not correct. Many spam messages say 'this is not spam' or even have headlines like 'How to avoid getting spam like this one.'
The word spam has a very high rating and does not get through many filters.
Question: What's your opinion on Microsoft's new Anti-Spyware program? It is getting a lot of press.
Answer: Microsoft's Anti-Spyware Beta 1 is still in beta. Two reviews that summarize our opinions were done by Neil J. Rubenking in PC Magazine and Walter Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal. These articles are called "Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta 1" and "Free Microsoft Program To Battle Spyware Has Some Serious Flaws." You can see them here.
Like both Rubenking and Mossberg, we agree that Spy Sweeper is a better product.
You can read more about spyware here.
Finally, on a lighter note:
Question: Thank you for your enlightening newsletters. What shall I do with my collection of more than 2,000 Nigerian fraud emails? Good condition, only read once.
Answer: You could put them up on eBay... 😉 (just kidding)
That's it for today. Have a great week.