With everyone from the kids to grandma and every office worker in America using computers daily, much of the work in the IT business is all about protection. Despite all the security that can be provided, user mistakes — often unintentional — can put people and businesses in difficult circumstances when it comes to the safety of their data, identities and their bank accounts.

The goal of IT providers should be to protect their customers from harm, rather than help them recover after they have been harmed. With that in mind, here are some tips for computer users at the office and home to avoid being a victim of viruses, malware and scams.

Is that really your boss?
Even with thorough efforts by IT providers to limit harm, we continue to hear from customers about unique ways bad guys try to reach you. One of these methods is CEO spoofing.

If you see an email from your boss or CEO asking you to make some kind of financial transaction, you may assume it’s the real thing. But some investigation might prove otherwise. Look closely at the address used to send the email. If it doesn’t follow the usual format for your company, it may be a case of spoofing, aka imitating a real email address, and you should not follow the instructions in the email.

Real-life examples include workers being asked to purchase gift cards, then email the serial numbers back to the fake CEO. Other versions involve scammers asking for money to be wired.

The best rule of thumb is when something doesn’t seem right, check into it. If it seems odd that your boss or CEO would ask you to do a certain task, do some digging before you follow through and potentially put yourself or the business at risk.

Don’t click that link!
The danger of viruses is always present when you are online. No matter your level of protection, if you click on links you shouldn’t in an email or on social media, your personal or company data is at risk.

Some companies are proactive and test to see how much at risk they are, and will send their employees benign phishing emails to get reports on who clicked on the links. This testing is becoming more common as companies seek to prevent impact from viruses before it happens, then follow up by educating those who would have clicked on the potentially harmful link.

So what type of links shouldn’t you click? Here are some common sense ground rules of what to avoid.

  • Emails you were not expecting (i.e. FedEx delivery notice when you didn’t order anything)
  • Any email that is too good to be true (offers of money, etc.)
  • Any email that is odd or out of character (such as a friend telling you to check out a random link without any description)
  • Any emails claiming to be from the federal government (they do not communicate via email)

We’re all busy, so it’s understandable that on occasion we’ll make mistakes on what we click. But knowing what is at stake if your information gets in the wrong hands, a good rule is that if something looks like it’s possibly not safe to click on, don’t take the bait.

Kelly Siegel is CEO of National Technology Management (NTM), 30400 Telegraph Road, Suite 116, in Bingham Farms. He has been in the IT consulting business for 21 years and saved businesses millions of dollars by streamlining their technology systems. NTM can be reached at 248-658-0829, and Siegel can be reached via email at ksiegel@trustntm.com.