If you haven’t received a phone call from “Microsoft” yet, you will soon. If the IRS or the FBI or your electric company haven’t called you demanding you pay money now or you will go to jail or get your service disconnected, you will soon. Thanks to cheap, disposable internet telephones scammers can do what they want with little chance of being caught. It goes beyond that.

What is malvertising? Put simply, it is a web advertisement whose only purpose is to scam you or plant malicious software on your computer. Malvertising works because advertisers have no respect for you and thus have no respect for your privacy. I have some rules below for advertisers which, if followed, will immediately destroy malvertising. A new type of malvertising menace is when the malicious ad redirects your browser to a website and tells you to call a toll free number. The good ones know if you are using Windows or Mac.

What can you do to protect yourself? Know how to identify a scam.

One simple rule to identify a scam is this: If they tell you have a problem you didn’t know existed before they told you and they can fix your problem for a fee, it is a scam. While this rule does not cover every scam, it covers a good many. For example: You get a message on your computer from Microsoft telling you that a virus has been detected but don’t worry, if you call this toll-free number your problem can be fixed for a small fee. Another example: The IRS calls you saying there is a warrant out for your arrest and an officer is coming to your house now, but don’t worry, simply use an untraceable money transfer service and I will make your problem go away.

Scams are on the increase. Never ever give your personal or financial information over the phone, no exception. I had ECU college call me asking for donations, but I wouldn’t give out my information over the phone. Never ever give your personal information to someone who contacts you or someone who tells you to contact them, no exception.

What is most troubling is that certain businesses are in a position to stop this, but they won’t because shareholders don’t want to hear “profits are down because we took steps to stop scammers”. I find data aggregators most abhorrent, of which Microsoft is now worse than Google and Facebook. Here are my rules for websites and advertisers which, if followed, will protect us from scams and protect our privacy. It will also make the internet a better place. My rules are not onerous, all but one was standard when the internet became a necessity.

  1. Absolutely no tracking of any kind for any reason, no exception.
  2. Absolutely no ads that require a plug-in (such as Flash or Java) or require the use of javascript, no exception. (Javascript is the programming language that makes websites interactive.)
  3. Advertisers who take money from businesses or individuals are to be financially responsible for malvertising.
  4. Absolutely no ads or unrelated content to a web page that cover all or part of a web page, no exception.
  5. Absolutely no pop-up or pop-under ads, no exception.
  6. Absolutely no autoplay videos except when I click on a link for a video. When a video is finished, you must opt-in to autoplay the next video, a person is opted-out by default. Any ad before a video may only play when I choose to watch the video.
  7. Absolutely no ads which attempt to determine my location, no exception. No ads which say “Surprising secret [your city] man discovers!”

Be safe out there. Whenever anyone asks for money or your personal information, don’t give it to them.

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