What to do when you accidentally click on a spam link?

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We’re human. We all make mistakes. Some errors happen when we’re in a hurry or so busy that we don’t pay attention. Sometimes it’s not even our fault. We can fall victim to some unscrupulous individuals online and don’t even know it.

Here’s what you should do when these things happen to you:

You accidentally clicked on a spam link. What do you do?

Spam links come from ads that pop up on a webpage or in emails sent to you. Clicking on them can install malware like viruses, spyware or ransomware on your device. Depending on the type of malware downloaded, your computer can become unstable and crash; it can encrypt your important documents and hold them for ransom (you won’t be able to open them unless you pay up); or worse, make your bank accounts and emails vulnerable. This happens when the malware records the keys you type on your keyboard (like when you’re typing your passwords) and sends it to a hacker. If you mistakenly clicked on a spam link and suspect that your computer is infected, you should:

  1. Disconnect your device – Take off your device immediately from all sources of internet. This prevents any potential malware from spreading to other devices that are connected to the network.
  2. Backup your files – When recovering from any cyber-attack, data may be erased or corrupted. Save your essential files in an external drive before attempting to repair your computer. Remember that photos or videos would need a bigger storage space. Look for flash drives that have terabytes in storage space.
  3. Scan your system – Use antivirus software to run a full scan on your computer. Do it offline. Follow the instructions on the screen to quarantine or remove malware. If you don’t have an antivirus program, use Windows Defender (assuming that your computer runs on the Windows operating system) or get free ones online like Avast or Kaspersky. Remember that you have to download them from a different device and then install it to the affected computer. Consider buying antivirus program going forward. These programs offer more layers of protection and can keep new malware at bay.
  4. Change your passwords – Change your passwords to protect your email, bank account, social media, shopping and other accounts. Again, use another device when you do this. Make sure that you don’t use the same password for different accounts and make them hard to guess. Read 5 tips for online safety to know how to make strong passwords.

What to do when your email has been hacked?

Are your friends telling you that you’ve sent them strange emails? Did someone warn you that they saw unusual posts from your social media accounts? If you were not responsible for the emails or posts, your email has been hacked. This means all your other online accounts may be vulnerable as well. This can lead to identity theft and other security breaches that may affect your finances or reputation. When this happens:

  1. Change your password and check your account settings – Change your email or social media password. Make it a complex one so that it will be hard to guess. Consider enabling two-step verification for an added layer of security. If the hacker changed your password, use the “forgot password” link on the login page to regain control of your account. Check your account settings to make sure that your emails are not forwarded to the hacker’s account.
  2. Check your bank account transactions – Check your bank statements to see if there are purchases charged to you that you didn’t make. You may need to contact your bank to tell them about the security breach.
  3. Send an alert message to your contacts – Send a message to your contacts that your email account has been hacked. Ask them to ignore any suspicious messages or posts coming from you (especially requests for money and other favours) until you have resolved the issue.
  4. Check for malware – Run a full scan of your system and clean it. If you’ve found malware in your computer, you may need to change your account passwords again to make sure.
  5. Monitor your accounts and use preventive measures – Check activity on your credit card. Request for your free credit check. Monitor activity on your other accounts or subscriptions where you used your email. If you have other email accounts, go to Have I been Pwned to check if they have been compromised in a data breach.

What to do when you accidentally pour liquid on your laptop?

You have to move fast in this situation. But don’t panic. You can stop or limit the damage by following these steps:

  1. Turn off the device – Press the power button for five seconds to turn the laptop off. Unplug it and remove the battery at once. Take off all attached accessories like cables, thumb drives, headsets, etc.
  2. Dry the machine – Use a towel to wipe off the liquid on the outside of the machine. Open your laptop as far as possible and hold it upside down. Let it dry for a couple of hours. If you spilled water, it can be just a matter of waiting for the laptop to dry (but don’t use a blow dryer!). Dealing with sugary or alcoholic liquids is more complicated. These are sticky and can damage delicate parts of the laptop. If this is the case, you will need to bring your it to a professional.
  3. Check the warranty – If drying the laptop off didn’t work, don’t take your computer’s casing apart. This can void the warranty. You can also make the damage worse. Call tech support for your laptop or read the warranty. Follow the instructions. You may be able to have your laptop repaired or replaced if your warranty is still valid.
  4. Protect your laptop – To prevent future mishaps, don’t put liquids (or any other possibly harmful materials) near your computer. You can also buy silicone or clear plastic keyboard cover and screen protector if you need more protection.

Sources: Clicked on a phishing link? Here’s what to do next…, Inty.com; Four things to do when your email gets hacked, Trend Micro; The best free antivirus protection for 2019, Neil J. Rubenking, PC Magazine; 9 things to do when your email is hacked, Adam Levin, ABC News; Spilled water on your laptop? Here’s how to fix it, Jon Martindale, Digital Trends; and How to save your laptop after a spill, Catherine Roseberry, Lifewire.

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Community Resources

If you received a phishing or scam text message, you can report it to your telecom provider so they can block the number. You can also inform the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre.

If you’ve been a victim of a fraud or scam, contact the Winnipeg Police Service.

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