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Tips to Identify and Reduce Email Spam

What is email spam, junk mail, spam, wikipedia source

What is Email Spam?

Email spam also referred to as junk email or simply spam, is unsolicited messages sent in bulk by email.

The name comes from a Monty Python sketch in which the name of the canned pork product Spam is ubiquitous, unavoidable, and repetitive.

Email spam has steadily grown since the early 1990s, and by 2014 was estimated to account for around 90% of total email traffic.

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email_spam

AN EXAMPLE SPAM EMAIL

If you see an email like the one shown below, the first thing to remember is that a legitimate company will notify you well in advance, not the day of a subscription expiring.

This example uses fear to get people to click on the links and surrender all sorts of personal and financial information.

Frequently, in spam or phishing emails, the message will be an image and not text as it would typically be. If working with a mouse, you can tell by watching the pointer change from an arrow to a hand when you hover it over plain text vs. something with a link.

spam email example, Eric Montgomery, shoregeek.com

#1 SUBJECT/TITLE OF EMAIL
Most spam email subjects/titles will contain action words, such as “Expired!,” “Limited Time,” or “URGENT.”  You can see how in this example email, the subject states, “Your computer is infected with (2) viruses! Your NORTON Subscription Has Expired!” 

First, any legit subscription will notify you well before an expiration event.

Second, no legit security product is going to email you with a virus warning. 🙂

#2 FROM ADDRESS
Since the email tells you that your Norton Security has expired in this example, the email address should be from norton.com (or something very similar). And we can see here it is not even close.

#3 EXTERNAL IMAGES/CONTENT
When you open/view an email with pictures stored externally vs. included within the email, your email address is verified as belonging to a real person. Then your email address may be added to email lists that might be sold to spammers, or you may receive even more spam emails.

#4 THE MESSAGE IS AN IMAGE, NOT TEXT
In this message example, the body of the email — the “message” — is an image, not plain text. Unfortunately, it is a common tactic of spam and phishing emails.

#5 EMAIL HAS INCORRECT GRAMMAR and TYPOS
Most spam or phishing emails will contain poor grammar and typos. Or they may also use different terms together as if they are the same thing.

These are excellent examples of wrong terms and several typos, “Your subscription of Norton 360 for Mac…” and then another sentence states, “Your PC mIght be unprotected, It can be exposed to viruses and other malware…” 

ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR REDUCING OR PREVENTING EMAIL SPAM

Turn off Read and Delivery Receipts
Spammers will sometimes send meeting requests or messages that include a request for read and delivery receipts. These two tactics can also help a spammer verify that your email address belongs to a real person. Then your email, and thousands of others, are added to more extensive lists to be sold or sent more spam.

Limit the places where you post your primary email address
To the best of your ability, try not to post or use your primary email address anywhere. No social media, chat forums, discussion boards, mailing lists, newsletters, marketing, press releases, etc. Any of these (and more) can increase your chances of spam or otherwise malicious email. There are services like email relay, which give you a limited email address that forwards information to your primary address. I find it easier to have another email account (or several) to use for things and keep my primary email private.

Beware of Unsubscribing
Be careful of unsubscribing from an email. You should only click the “Unsubscribe” link in an email if that email is something you knowingly asked to be sent to you. If you don’t know why something is being sent to you, don’t know who the company is, etc. DON’T CLICK UNSUBSCRIBE. That will verify that your email address belongs to a human, and, you guessed it, your address will be added to a more extensive list for sale or more spam.

Beware of emails requesting personal information
Most legitimate companies will not ask for personal information via email. Be suspicious if they do. Such a request could be an email disguised to look like a legitimate one (e.g., phishing). If the email appears to be sent by a company you do business with — for example, a financial company — then call the company to verify that they sent it, but don’t use any phone number provided in the email. Instead, use a number that you can find on a recent statement (beware using Google, spammers can get you there too). The same goes for clicking links within an email. Avoid doing that in general. Instead, go to a saved bookmark (or use an app specifically for that company on your mobile device).

Don’t forward chain emails
You might be furthering a hoax or sending viruses, phishing attempts, etc., to other people.

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