The Internet and the information it connects to is a resource that many have come to depend upon. Facts that once might have taken several days to locate in a research library can now be obtained instantaneously using your personal computer or even a handheld wireless device. Individuals can publish to a world wide audience, mix up previously existing content to form new creations, or act as curators, sharing with friends the best new content found on the Internet. Because almost anyone with a computer or wireless device can connect to the Internet, however, some bad actors have found ways to use it to cause harm. Several U.S. Government agencies, including the FCC, and non-profit organizations have joined in an effort to provide consumers useful, easy-to-understand information on Internet safety that can be found at www.onguardonline.gov. This guide summarizes some of this valuable information.
"Spam" is online junk mail, which is inconvenient and wastes time. Spam can change from annoying to malicious if spam emails, or anything attached to them, steal personal information (spyware) or work to disrupt your personal computer or wireless device by implanting viruses or worms (malware). Some malware can integrate your computer into a network to distribute spam, turning it into a "zombie" that becomes part of a "botnet." Ways you can reduce spam include:
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act, a federal law, requires senders of commercial email to give you a return email address or other Internet-based response method to opt out of future emails. Senders must honor your opt out request within ten days, and cannot sell or transfer the email address in your opt out request unless the transfer is to allow another sender to comply with the Act. Find out more about the Act. You can report spam received on your computer to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by sending a copy of the message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The CAN-SPAM Act also prohibits the sending of unwanted commercial messages to wireless devices using an Internet address without prior authorization. For more information on spam to wireless devices and how to complain to the FCC about it, see the FCC consumer guide.
Ways you can control spyware and malware that may come with spam are:
Signs that your computer may be infected include slowing, repeated error messages, increasing numbers of pop-up ads, or going to websites other than the one you intend. Scan your computer regularly, and contact your security software provider or seek other professional help if you find problems you can't solve. You can also complain about an infection to the FTC online, calling toll-free to 1-877-382-4357 (voice) or 1-866-653-4261 (TTY), or writing to:
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20580
Some of the most dangerous spam emails are those that are disguised as legitimate emails from a business or organization that you may do business with, such as your bank, credit card company, club you belong to, or even a government agency. The emails ask that you update or confirm account or other personal information, and provide a link to a Web site that looks just like the website of the "organization" contacting you. In a new twist, such "phishing" scams are being used to obtain user names and passwords to email accounts, allowing scammers access to all the personal information contained in your own emails and any emails sent to you by others. Phishing scams can also lead to identity theft. Here are ways to avoid these scams:
In addition to phishing emails, watch out for emails with sales pitches or promises that sound too good to be true. Before buying or otherwise acting on an online offer, get all your questions answered and read all the fine print. View more information on common email scams.
Children's Internet Safety
Any parent or caregiver knows that children are spending more time online and at younger ages. With newer and increasingly popular smart phones, Internet access is easier than ever. Children can be more vulnerable to scams and sophisticated online marketing, and are sharing more personal information on social networking sites. The best advice for parents and caregivers is to talk to children about Internet safety and stay aware of what children are doing online. View more information on children's Internet safety.
Consumer Help Center
For more information on consumer issues, visit the FCC’s Consumer Help Center at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.