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  • Avoid Instant Messaging Dangers
    Security tips for IM users
    Instant messaging is growing by leaps and bounds, and it's even changing how people communicate. And it's no wonder! IM programs let you know when your friends are online and make it simple to trade quick text messages with them. Newer IM programs like MindSpring by EarthLink even let you make free voice calls and exchange files.

    But with the growing popularity on instant messaging comes new risks—from unwanted messages and online harassment to identity theft and computer viruses. In many ways, instant messaging is like real-time email, and some of the same precautions should be taken to ensure your online safety and security.
    • Choose a screen name that doesn't give away too much about you. Instead, choose something a little more generic like BrownsFan06.
    • Once you've chosen a screen name, only give it out to friends and family—don't post it anywhere publicly.
    • Don't open attachments or files from people you don't know (it could be a virus or phisher attack). Even with files from people you do know, make sure you know what the attachment is before you open it.
    • NEVER provide personal information to anyone in an IM conversation (Social Security number, password, credit card, mother's maiden name, etc.).
    • If you use a public computer, don't check the log on automatically function (also look at our previous article on Public Computer Safety to clean your tracks).
    With a few basic precautions, you can enjoy the real-time interaction of instant messaging with less worry.