Since your youngest years, you were encouraged to let the Golden Rule inform you as you went about your day: Treat others as you would want to be treated. While I don’t want to encourage you to do otherwise, the reality is that the scope and anonymity of the technological advances and virtual conveniences that we embrace on any given day have removed the face-to-face interactions that the Golden Rule was based on. Manners, even decency, have been tossed aside. And in its place is a wild, wild west where only the most alert and responsive seem to escape the hidden bandits of the internet. So what’s the answer. Get off tech? No, it’s time for you to put on your spurs and explore the technological landscape, rough as it may be, but emboldened with a John Wayne sense of right and wrong and the good sense to avoid tech pitfalls that will lead you into harm’s way.

The Phone Bandits

Just because someone is calling you, does not mean you need to speak to them. Put your politeness aside. Robocallers can very easily access your number, along with hundreds and thousands of others, and with the click of a button simultaneously call every number. As the calls go through, scam artists are on the line waiting to see what numbers will get answered before they launch into the con of the day. By not answering a call from a number that you don’t recognize, you will ensure that these bandits cannot do you any harm.

The Email Bandits

With the advent of online banking and the shift towards doing our personal business, like making banking deposits, filing taxes and submitting healthcare claims online, it seems natural that these very same financial, government and other business institutions, would reach back out to us via online avenues like email. To some extent that may be true. Emailing customers is and will likely remain a primary marketing tool. But if your bank is reaching out to you via email with a problem and is asking you to log in from the email to solve this problem, you are very likely NOT really hearing from your bank, but rather some kind of cybercriminal who wants to steal your login information and gain control of your accounts. If you are concerned that your bank is really trying to reach you, call the 800 number on the back of your bank card and speak to a bank representative. Alternatively, you can open a new browser, access your bank’s site and login from there to see if the same message appears with your account. This cautionary tale applies to email correspondence from your health insurer, your cable provider and the IRS. No matter how convincing that email looks, do not assume it is real and do not login from the email. Exercise caution.

The Do-Gooder Bandits

Maybe you have already encountered this cyber-creep before, the one who sends a pop-up message on your computer screen, alerting you to a virus and offering to help you with tech support? Companies don’t proactively reach out like that. Customer service, by and large, is based on a customer reaching out to a company and getting service in response to that inquiry. If someone is connecting with you about a computer virus problem, without you connecting first, be guarded. Close your browser and reboot your computer. In most cases, the pop-up message will go away. To be extra vigilant, install anti-virus software that will protect you from computer viruses and other related security breaches.

When it comes to staying safe online, being tech savvy is not reserved for the young. Age and wisdom go a long way in protecting yourself from the cyber bandits of the internet.

Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for our free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics. See more cyber safety and cyber ethics blogs produced exclusively for EarthLink. Looking for a social media parental control? Try a 30-day free trial of Bark. If you sign up after your trial, Bark donates 25% of your monthly fee to Savvy Cyber Kids.

Thank you to the Savvy Cyber Kid’s sponsors!

Interested in becoming a Savvy Cyber Kids sponsor? Email Ben Halpert.