Stephanie Garland: Keep your computer safe by cleaning it up | Business

April is Digital Spring Cleaning Month, making your computer a great place to jump-start any spring cleaning. Keeping your computer secure and free of unnecessary data is a great way to keep it safe from spyware and keep you safe from identity theft.

Tech support scams remain a common threat, with more than 1,300 such scams reported nationwide to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker in 2021. A pop-up on your computer or an unsolicited phone call may tell you your computer needs imminent repairs. If you allow the scammer access to “fix” your computer, they may install spyware or malware that will scan your computer for personal information or monitor your web-surfing behavior, opening you up to identity theft.

A St. Louis man reported losing $15,000 to a tech support scam in March after receiving an email that claimed to be from a popular antivirus software. When he clicked on the email, someone remotely logged into his computer. The man said the representative told him to log into his bank account and approve a $399 refund of his tech support service fee, after which the man saw that $15,000 had been deposited into his account. The representative told him to send back the $15,000 in Bitcoin. The man’s bank subsequently told him the deposits had been fraudulent.

The role of cryptocurrency in tech support scams is further explored in BBB’s 2022 in-depth investigative study on cryptocurrency fraud. Tech support fraud also is a common goal of business email compromise scams, the subject of a 2019 BBB study. Read both studies at bbb.org/scamstudies.

Tech experts recommend four ways to keep your computer safe and running optimally:

Clean up old files. Go through all installed software on your computer and uninstall or remove the programs you no longer want or need. You also should delete files you no longer need.

Update your computer. Install updates to your computer’s operating systems and your software as soon as they become available. Your computer should notify you of available updates. You also can search for software updates for your accessories, such as printers and routers, by going to the support area of those devices’ websites and searching for “firmware update.”

Back up your files. It’s critical to back up important files on a regular basis in case of theft, fire, viruses or a damaging power surge. This includes irreplaceable digital photos, documents, email addresses, calendar items and web bookmarks. You can use a local solution like a USB flash drive or external hard drive, keeping it in a safe place, or you can use a cloud solution like Google Drive.

Keep your computer secure. Be sure to use virus protection or cybersecurity software to safeguard your computer from viruses, spyware, hackers, scams and more.

Stephanie Garland is director of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield. Among those counties served by BBB Springfield are Jasper, Newton, McDonald, Lawrence and Barton counties. Emails may be sent to [email protected]