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Hi, I'm From Microsoft

Hi, I'm from Microsoft
by Gary Woods

A friend of mine called the other day and said she'd just been called by Microsoft. Now I've had my share of calls from Microsoft over the years. Occasionally they want me to attend a product roll out or get my opinion on product features but as a rule they don't call. So, being the curious sort, I asked my friend what they wanted. Well she said they wanted to inform her that her computer had been corrupted and they were there to help. Now next to the words "I[m from the government and I'm here to help" I'm from Microsoft is about as scary as it gets.

A few days later I received my own personal call from "Microsoft" ready to help me and they were so persistent they called back 3 times. Okay, you can see where this is going. Microsoft is a great company and I've received outstanding tech support from them over the years but they don't call up and volunteer that support. So, what I thought I'd do is put together a check list of things you shouldn't do!

First, if anybody calls or emails you asking for personal data like Social Security Numbers, Credit Card Numbers, passwords and even user names hang up on them immediately. These solicitations can be extremely convincing looking with Bank and Credit Card Logos prominently displayed but they're all fakes. If you're really concerned turn your credit card over and call the number on the back but never click on anything from one of these emails and don't dial the number they give you over the phone.

Second, you should definitely think about getting some kind of identification protection. We've used ProtectMyID for a couple of years and just switched to LifeLock Ultimate with its increased protection for bank accounts. There are a lot of companies that offer this kind of service so do your homework and get a service that works for you.

And third, look at your passwords and consider re-doing them. Passwords that are just one familiar word aren't very safe. To really protect yourself a password should be at least 8 characters and letters. It should have upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols in a completely random order and you should consider changing your passwords on a quarterly basis. The amount of data that is out there on the internet about you is massive so do everything you can to keep people away from your data.

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc