In this Tech Tip, we will cover a few of the basics of Spam Email and extra steps that can be used to help ensure your privacy is protected, and spam email is avoided.
What is SPAM Email?
Spam is when emails are sent out in enormous quantities, flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to reach as many recipients or potential victims as possible. Most spam is commercial advertising, often for suspect products, get-rich-quick schemes, quasi-charity appeals, chain letters and financial scams. Spam costs the sender very little to send and the negative costs are usually absorbed by the recipient or the carriers rather than by the sender.
How do spammers target Me?
It can be hard to explain how each person can become a target by spammers, but it often happens when someone downloads something accidentally. Malware designed to target address books often copies their contents and uploads them to another computer which sends out spam emails. There are many other ways to become a target of spam, such as:
- Clicking ‘Download Attachments’ – alerts spammers that they actually have a ‘live’ email address.
- Posting eMails publicly using Bots (programs designed to exploit information) are designed to find emails posted on public forums and use them for spam
- Responding to, or clicking links inside spam emails – again, this alerts the spammers that they have a ‘live’ address, and to send much more spam to it.
You are your own worst enemy
Using your email address for website registrations, shopping or social media can make you and others vulnerable to spam. The more you enter your email address online the more likely your address is known by the rest of the world.
If you’re unsure, ignore it.
Spam emails are designed to appear legit, but taking a couple of seconds to investigate or simply question the contents of an email can save you a lot of future headaches. There are many types of email spam, but most of them utilize common themes to exploit their targets, such as:
- Free devices
- Enhancement drugs
- Weight Loss
- Dream Job
- Lucky Winner
The good news is that spammers don’t generally change their technique, just the wording and content. They find a topic that appeals to a broad audience (like the examples above) and sticks to it. Familiarize yourself with trending spam emails and avoid opening them.
Identify potential spammers
1) Spam often contains misspellings and oddly-worded sentences. This can include bizarre capitalisation and weird punctuation. Many have gibberish at the end of the message.
2) Spam generally contains one or more links to click. The intention of most spam emails is to get you to click something (this starts a download or sends you to a dodgy website).
3) Read the header carefully! If it’s asking for personal info, inviting you to a special event or telling you, “you won something” – just walk away.
4) Pay attention to attachments – email providers these days can generally filter out the most harmful types of attachments, but it’s advisable to avoid clicking questionable files.
What else can be done?
Hide your email address
The more people who have your email address, the more spam you’re going to get. So keep your address close to your chest.
Don’t publish it on the web unless you absolutely have to. (I have to, and it’s not fun.) And if you have to, use a different address for that purpose.
Creating two email accounts at the same time and separating their uses can save you from many, if not all problems associated with spam.
Fake.Business@gmail = used for business/important purposes only
Fake.Personal@gmail = used for communication with friends or signing up for other services
By doing this, you dramatically reduce the potential of having spam reach your business address used for banking and other relative services. It is easier to delete everything in the personal email because it’s only used for trivial things.
Train your filter
When you find spam in your inbox, don’t just delete it. Select it, and tell your mail client that this particular message is spam. How you do this depends on your client. For instance, if you’re using Gmail’s website, click the Report spam button in the toolbar (the icon looks like an exclamation point inside a stop sign).
You also need to train the client about your false positives. Once a day, go through your spam folder looking for messages that don’t belong there. When you find one, select it and tell the client that it made a mistake. In Gmail, you click the Not spam button.
Never respond to spam
If you recognize something as spam before you open it, don’t open it. If you open it and then realize it’s spam, close it. Do not click a link or a button, or download a file, from a message that you even remotely suspect is spam.
If you opened spam because it appeared to be coming from a friend or co-worker, contact them immediately and let them know that their account has been compromised.
Use a third-party anti-spam filter
Most of the major security suites come with an anti-spam filter that can augment the one on your client—but only if that client is local. In other words, they can work with the local Outlook program, but not with .