For all the benefits that the internet has brought with it, it’s also opened the door for scammers in a way never imagined before. The anonymity that the internet allows means that people who might not otherwise have considered doing unscrupulous things to make money find it an easy temptation.

The best way to avoid falling victim to such scams is knowing what the biggest threats are and how you can avoid them. Below are some of the most common threats to your computer.

1.  

Viruses have been a since the early days of the internet and the amount of anti-virus software that’s on the market just shows what a significant threat they still are. Viruses are most commonly transmitted via the internet although they can also get into your computer through physical media such as CDs and USB sticks.

Any decent anti-virus software will detect most of the common viruses and remove them before they’re able to affect your computer. In cases where a virus is causing widespread damage such as deleting files and taking up memory, then the best solution is usually to reinstall the operating system.

Broadband from Virgin Media comes with 12 months free internet for new customers to help prevent viruses infecting your PC.

2.

Spam email is something that everyone who uses the internet has come across. Whilst most email services will block out the vast majority of spam email, there are still messages that get through. However the real danger with spam isn’t necessarily receiving the messages yourself but unknowingly becoming a distributor of it.

It’s very common for spammers to take control of other people’s email accounts to distribute spam. Once your email account has been compromised then it’s very possible that your personal information will be compromised too.

GreenNet have a very comprehensive guide on spam if you want further information.

3. Phishing

Phishing is an extremely common threat these days and people who are not internet savvy are at particular risk of falling victim to it. Phishing usually starts in the form of an email that appears to be from a legitimate source such as eBay, PayPal or your bank.

The email will usually say something along the lines of “your order has been approved, please log into your account if you did not make this order”. There’ll be a link in the email that takes you to a phony website that’s been set up to look like the website of the company that’s being imitated and hosted on the scammer’s server.

You’ll then be asked to provide sensitive information such as your name, address and credit card details. People who fall victim to phishing usually don’t know about it until they see money disappearing from their bank or are informed by someone else that it was a scam.

This YouTube video clearly demonstrates how phishing works

4. Spyware

Spyware is what most people commonly mistake as a virus. It usually gets onto a computer by being hidden in another download. Spyware can collect any personal information thats on your computer as well as causing it to act in unexpected ways such as redirecting you to websites selling software, changing computer settings and causing crashes.

Most good anti-virus software will also come with spyware protection that removes the threat before it’s able to infect your machine.