Friday, February 28, 2014
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Fake funeral notice can be deadly for your computer

By Colleen Tressler, consumer education specialist with the Federal Trade Commission

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[February 28, 2014]  WASHINGTON Scam artists are forever trying to trick people into clicking on links that will download malware to their computers. But the latest scam takes the tricks to a new low. Scammers are sending bogus emails with the subject line "funeral notification." The message appears to be from a legitimate funeral home, offers condolences and invites you to click on a link for more information about the upcoming "celebration of your friend's life service." But instead of sending you to the funeral home's website, the link sends you to a foreign domain where the scammers download malware to your computer.

Malware, short for "malicious software," includes viruses and spyware that get installed on your computer without your consent. These programs can cause your device to crash and can be used to monitor and control your online activity. Criminals use malware to steal personal information, send spam and commit fraud.

If you get an email about a friend or loved one's passing, the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, says hit "delete." Don't click on the link. You may then want to contact the funeral home or family directly to verify the information.

To reduce your risk of downloading unwanted malware and spyware:

  • Keep your security software updated.

  • Don't click on any links or open any attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it is.

  • Download and install software only from websites you know and trust.

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  • Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads.

  • Use a pop-up blocker and don't click on any links within pop-ups.

  • Resist buying software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or emails, especially ads that claim to have scanned your computer and detected malware. That's a tactic scammers use to spread malware.

  • Back up your data regularly.

[By COLLEEN TRESSLER, Federal Trade Commission]

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