Here are a few important consumer issues to keep in mind:
Internet image scam
Medina-based Internet security firm ThirtySeven4 LLC says you need to be careful about inadvertently causing problems to your computer while you are searching the Web for pictures.
Steven Sundermeier, president of ThirtySeven4, said searching for an image or picture of a celebrity or trending picture is popular.
A lot of Internet users search through Google Images, Bing or other sites. The problem is that cybercriminals can use those searches to attract viewers to malicious websites that can infect your computers.
Here’s how it works. A search most likely results in several versions. If you click on one of those images, on Google, there’s an option to “view original image” or “visit page.”
But cybercriminals are cloning the popular images. When people go to their sites to view the photo, in the background, they are automatically injecting your computer with malware codes, Sundermeier said.
This doesn’t have anything to do with “saving” an image, but can happen just by viewing the image through the bad website.
Saving the photo file doesn’t infect you, but the bad website might be in the background downloading things onto your computer, he said.
Sundermeier said the easiest thing to do is not to click through to the full images and to make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date. Looking at the images on the main search screen should satisfy most inquiries.
If you do need to save or download a photo or you do want to go to the original page, make sure that website is trustworthy. If you roll over the “view original image” with your mouse, the actual Web address will usually show up on the bottom of your screen.
Sundermeier said sometimes anti-virus programs can’t keep up, so being knowledgeable is key. Some programs also have filters for safer Internet browsing.
Here are other tips from ThirtySeven4:
• Malicious websites manipulate search results, putting their result at the top of a search. Remember that a website that appears at the top of a search results page doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legitimate.
• Verify that your Web browser, operating system and other programs are updated with the latest security patches and fixes.
• Make sure your virus protection software is updated.
ThirtySeven4’s warning is online at http://thirtyseven4.com/image_search_threat.html.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on what the Central Ohio BBB is calling a deceptive practice in Ohio. Christy Page, president of the Akron BBB, said her bureau has not received any complaints about this yet.
Here’s how it works: an official-looking document arrives in the mailbox saying you might qualify for a state-regulated, tax-free program that will pay funeral expenses up to $35,000.
You are asked to sign the document, provide your age and spouse’s age and telephone number. A card is enclosed with your name and address on it.
Consumer advocates warn about giving information in any unsolicited pitch.
The Central Ohio BBB traced the card to a company that generates leads for other companies. In this case, the return cards are being given to an insurance agent who pitches consumers for policies to cover funeral-related costs.
Joan Coughlin, spokeswoman for the Central Ohio BBB, said the card appears to be similar to others in Ohio and other states.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office also told the Dispatch it received no complaints, but warned about turning in information about yourself to any company asking for your business.
In a telephone interview, Coughlin told me that consumers should “understand they’re reacting to a solicitation coming to them. They’re not being proactive in researching it. You always want to be on guard toward someone targeting you and soliciting you. They’ve got a product to sell.”
It is unknown if there really is a state-regulated, tax-free program that will pay funeral expenses.
I’ve put in a few calls and if I find out there is such a program, I will let readers know.