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Our Health: Cyber crime puts seniors at risk

We all know those e-mails from Nigeria telling us we won $3 million in some obscure lottery are bogus — right?

So what's to worry about on the Internet?

The worry comes with seniors using the Web and becoming victims of all types of cyber crime.

In fact, with more and more people 65-plus using the Internet, the cyber crime activity is increasing, says Pamela Warren, the cybercrime expert for McAfee, producer of the Security Insights Blog,

"Older people have an implicit trust," she said. "And they often become victims of malicious Web sites."

Q. What's the simple solution?

A. Don't answer e-mail from people you don't know. Try to use Web sites you know are legitimate.

If what you are receiving is related to financial services, for example, know that a legitimate firm will never ask you to come to a Web site to give your personal information. They will call you or ask you to call them.

Q. McAfee produces security-related Web products?

A. We also have produced a free service that monitors many Web sites seniors might use. Anyone can download (One might) search for "Viagra," for example. It will rate the site automatically so you know if it is safe to order pills from, for example.

Plus there is a free shopping site that gives you a sense of confidence when you order an item.

We are monitoring all these sites and it's all free from this Web plug in. Plus it is not complicated for seniors who are not sophisticated using the Internet.

Q. What is a phishing site?

A. One of the most popular weapons scammers have to steal our sensitive personal information — especially our financial information — is the phishing site. These imposters are pixel perfect copies of real sites — typically bank, e-commerce and auction sites — that trick even the savviest users into submitting detailed information like bank passwords or credit card numbers. Once that information gets sold on the black market, consumers can suffer complete identity theft.

Q. How does help?

A. We automatically rate phishing sites red and whenever you try to browse to one, we automatically redirect you to a warning page.

Q. Give me another example.

A. E-mail is one of the most enduring vehicles the bad guys use to get their hooks into unsuspecting customers. "Free" products, cheap overseas pharmacies and so on can even lead to identity theft.

Q. These e-mails also can be rated by your service?

A. Our test computers check each one.

(Jane Glenn Haas writes for The Orange County (Calif.) Register. E-mail her at

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.