Be careful about clicking those links

I got a couple of messages from readers who informed me that they had clicked on a link or an advertisement, which opened up a pop-up window saying something like, "Congratulations! You've won an iPod. You have 4 minutes to claim it."

Being smart folks, they didn't click that OK button and tried to close the window, but couldn't. They had to shut down the browser in Task Manager. This highlights the dangers that lurk out there on the web, even on legitimate web sites. The hunt for "safe" fun links is one of the most challenging parts of writing the newsletter each week. Often a page that doesn't reveal a problem in one browser will have pop-ups in another (or in the same browser version that's configured differently, or that's running on an OS that's configured differently, and so forth). And sometimes, in between the time that I write the content and the time that it's distributed to you, new elements will be added to a site or the page will be changed altogether.

Always follow a few general rules of web safety: Don't click on pop-ups, no matter how tempting (or intimidating) they might be. This includes those that tell you you've won something, those that tell you that your computer is infected, or even those that appear to be "just" advertising. If the pop-up describes a product you find interesting, do a web search for it and find out more about it that way. Also be careful about closing those windows. Sometimes the X or Close button is designed to take you to a site or download a file to your computer. Closing the windows via Task Manager is always the safest route. Most browsers now include pop-up blockers, but these don't work with all pop-ups. Nonetheless, enabling that feature will prevent at least some of those annoying pop-ups.