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Scam Alert

Are You a Tweeter — or a Sitting Duck?

Old cons find fertile new ground on the popular social network

All signs are that spammers are turning to Twitter as they wind down their use of the traditional conduit of these missives, ordinary email. In the past year, email spam dropped a whopping 82 percent, according to Symantec, which makes Norton antivirus software.

So, to tweet with fewer cons and more confidence, take the following six precautions:

  • Don't open any dubious direct messages. This includes anything that asks a question, starts with "hey" or a similar generic term, or otherwise seems strange to you.
  • Treat links as suspicious. If in doubt, don't click on it.
  • Never log on to any page with your Twitter account information unless it has a Twitter log-on security technology known as OAuth or directly notes it's from
  • Change your Twitter password every few months — and immediately if you suspect your account has been hacked.
  • Check a new follower's stream of tweets. Suspect a scammer if you notice carbon-copy postings or the same links sent en masse to others. Beware when a stranger replies to one of your tweets with a link.
  • Pay attention to hashtag piggybacking. A hashtag is a word with the pound symbol before it — such as #caliwildfire — created by users to call attention to particular trends or events. But scammers may use the hashtag of the moment to look legitimate and entice users into clicking on malicious links.

Also of interest: Viruses, trojan horses and worms. >>

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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