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Online scammers target wildfire victims

September 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every time there's a disaster we hear about con men on the prowl for victims of a tragedy. These devastating wildfires are no exception, but this time they're hitting victims on their computer. Many Southern Californians want to know the latest about the wildfires and use television news to watch its progress.

Many consumers also get fire information on the internet, but depending on which Web site you go to, that could be a mistake.

"Right on the heels of a story, as soon as we had a fire story, we had malware that was disguising itself as information of the fire," said David Perry, an internet security expert with Trend Micro.

Perry says that malware will immediately infect your computer with a dangerous virus.

"Then the bad guys can steal what they're after, which is your credit card number, your bank account password and other biographical data that can be used to steal your identity," said Perry.

The virus installs something called a key logger that records every key stroke you make on your computer. Hackers can get your passwords, pin numbers and bank accounts, then sell that information over the internet underground.

Perry says we're bombarded with over 61,000 computer viruses a day, but even more when there is a disaster like the wildfires, as computer users seek more information about them. So when you search the internet for news, don't use a source you aren't familiar with.

To avoid being a virus victim:

  • Be aware your personal information is your property
  • Install updated internet security software
  • Use strong passwords

"All of our money, all of our business, is connected to that internet one way or another so be careful what you do with it," said Perry.

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