Is This Email “Spam”?
As much as spam is a nuisance, dealing with spam isn’t necessarily that difficult. The first step in dealing with spam is being able to identify it.
Spam email (aka, junk email) is unsolicited email that, in general, is trying to sell you something. It has been suggested that about 80% of all email sent out is spam. Why so much? Because sending spam is cheap and, as a result, even a small response to the spam is likely to turn a profit for the sender. However, not all unsolicited email is just a harmless sales pitch. Some spam emails will contain malicious files that can do damage to your computer, and some are scams. Such is the case with phishing emails, email scams that attempt to get you to hand over sensitive personal information such as credit card numbers, passwords, bank account information and numbers and so on.
For obvious reasons, it is important to protect yourself from spam and phishing emails. The first and most important step is knowing what to look for.
- The sender’s address may have long alphanumeric characters before the @ symbol.
- The domain name is unrecognizable (i.e. @mdatty.com), looks somewhat bogus, or is not from a known service provider (i.e. @mts.net or @gov.mb.ca).
- The subject line will often be vague or enticing (“very urgent”; “about our last meeting”), offer unlikely promises (“get a free university degree”; ” increase your income”), ask for money and so on with intentions to entice the reader into doing something they don’t need to.
- The greeting will usually be generic such as “Dear Valued Customer”, or “Dear info” (info being the user name of your email address).
- The sender, of course, is someone you don’t know.
- The sender displays a different email address in the From field than the email which was actually used to send the email.
These have many of the same traits as the spam characteristics above, however, because their objectives are more malicious, phishing con artists take additional approaches:
- The email is designed to look as though it is from a trusted company or business. Most commonly, these usually are financial institutions, credit card companies, or PayPal.
- The email contains official-looking logos taken from legitimate web sites.
- The email often has a sense of urgency (e.g., If you don’t respond within 48 hours your account will be closed, or, Verify your account now) and often ask for passwords, login names, and other personal/confidential information.
- The email will ask the recipient to click on a link within the email, which then takes them to a bogus company web site. Resting the mouse pointer on the link will reveal the real web address for the link – often it will be a string of cryptic numbers that do not resemble the real company’s web address.
- The phishing web site requests personal information (username/passwords, credit card information, bank account details, etc.). If the recipient mistakenly fills in this information over a bogus web site, it will almost certainly be stolen and used to commit identity theft, or make fraudulent purchases through your account. Banks, eBay, PayPal and other online services make it very clear that they will never ask you for your personal information, especially over email.
So, now that you can safely identify spam and phishing emails, how do you keep them out? This is a question we hear frequently. Our next e-newsletter will discuss some easy tips and strategies you can employ immediately for fast results. Plus follow along a real client problem and how we managed to reduce his 100 spam emails per day down to just a handful.
Whether you like it or not, death, taxes, and now email spam is going to be one of those things we cannot avoid. But, by carefully reviewing your emails for spam, and by employing our anti-spam strategies, we can keep the spammers at bay and our inboxes clean and tidy.