"Messages telling you to install and update security software for your computer seem to be everywhere. So you might be tempted by an offer of a 'free security scan,' especially when faced with a pop-up, an e-mail, or an ad that claims 'malicious software' has already been found on your machine. Unfortunately, it's likely that the scary message is a come-on for a rip-off.
"The free scan claims to find a host of problems, and within seconds, you're getting urgent pop-ups to buy security software. After you agree to spend $40 or more on the software, the program tells you that your problems are fixed. The reality: There was nothing to fix. And what's worse, the program now installed on your computer could be harmful." ("Free Security Scan" Could Cost Time and Money, Federal Trade Commission, December 2008).
A good deal of my alleged "retirement" is spent hanging out at our son Nathan's business, Computer Central in Brazil. The alternative to being there would most likely be History Channel reruns.
I'm fairly good at learning by "absorption", picking up bits and pieces of what Nathan and Dave tell customers and making it my own. Truth is I really only know two things about computers:
First, we somehow can't get along without them. I'm reminded of what one time Major League pitcher Jim Bouton said which somehow applies to a lot of life: "You spend your life holding a baseball, and then you realize it was all the way around." The same can be truthfully said of the ignominious PC.
The other thing of which I am sure concerning computers, and most everything else, is that there is a lot of evil out there on this earth-encompassing paradox called the Internet.
People come into the store daily wondering how they got the current "virus" or other problem even when they had an active, updated anti-virus program and have kept up with the Microsoft critical updates. I try to explain (in my simpler, don't know exactly what I'm talking about way) that it's because there is always a "window of opportunity" for evil.
If today some guy in some far off place can find a new way to get into computers, he has about 10 days to do his damage before the good-guy anti-virus people can catch up. If he gets to a million "prospects" and only one-tenth of one-percent respond, evil wins the day. A while back a customer came in who had purchased the "free security scan" and about $5,000 was charged on their credit card before the customer realized the computer itself was worse off. Fortunately there is no requirement that evil people be smart. The credit card company realized this was a fraud and called the customer. One would suspect, though, that smaller amounts would have gone unchallenged.
I'm getting too old to try getting along without my computer, and old enough to know I can't stop evil completely. If you'd like a copy of the FTC Consumer Alert it is available on-line ftc.gov; or come by Computer Central and I'll give you a copy -- I'll be the one fighting the forces of evil around the world!
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.