This week I'm glad to introduce guest blogger Cyndi Papia of Office To Go – Virtual Assistance. Cyndi keeps my burgeoning website in order, and is the Queen of Identifying SPAM (I just gave her that title). If I get an e-mail that even looks suspicious (and there are more in my inbox all the time) I send it off to Cyndi to get the scoop on it. I finally asked her to write a guest blog post for us all about how to spot SPAM email. Here's Cyndi's take.
Spam is the junk mail of cyberspace and there’s lots of it. How to spot spam email is not an overwhelming challenge, because, like its real-world paper clutter counterpart, spam email has a special look about it.
Spam email looks weird on both sides of the @ sign.
One sure sign of spam email is its often weird-looking address data. Spammers like to use mixes of alphanumeric characters before the domain address to get by spam filters, and it often works. It’s best just to highlight the addressee and consign it to your junk mail box manually. As far as the “dot com” stuff on the end, look for a reputable-looking company domain name following the @ sign. Legitimate companies do not use free email services like Gmail, Yahoo or AOL.
Spam email has a “homemade” look about it. If it makes you think twice, follow your first instinct/impression and don't open it!
Say you receive something from an address that looks authentic (bank, Amazon or PayPal) — the logo and the brand colors look familiar, but something doesn’t look or feel right, maybe the print font and links on the front of the mail look like something somebody entered with a keyboard, blurry graphics and “graphics text,” it's more than likely spam.
If there's a link in the email, hover your cursor over it (DO NOT CLICK THE LINK), you'll see the real website/url the link will take you is a phishing or other website you never heard of or “indicated” as the company in the email.
Also, spam mail originating outside the country might have spelling or punctuation errors. One sure sign of spam (and also scam) mail is an “urgent” message asking you to sign in using a link on the email or (even more obvious) to download a page and use the new page to sign into your account. Don’t do it!
Spam email originating from overseas tends to have quaint-sounding beginnings like, “Dear Valued Colleague,” or “Dear Beloved Friend.” These emails are most likely spam. It's best to delete and ignore them.
Never, ever provide personal information.
Your bank, eBay, PayPal, or any reputable website will never ask you for personal information. Spam(scam)ers are getting more and more sophisticated in composing emails that can frighten the most sophisticated folks into believing their credit card or bank account has been compromised and their life savings are in jeopardy. Do not bite! Again: no bank or financial institution will ever ask you for your user name or password.
Be careful out there…
Here are some suggestions for handling suspected spam:
- Delete it before even opening the mail. If you open it, don’t click on any links.
- If the email contains an attachment or file, DO NOT open or download them. Many file attachments are actually malicious programs and/or spread viruses, even infecting your entire computer and generate spam mail from email addresses in your address book.
- Never reply to or acknowledge a spam email. Even though it might feel nice to vent, the spammer does not care. Responding to a spam email lets the spammer know that your email address is a good one and you'll continue to receive spam.
- If it's a newsletter or email selling a product/service and there is no physical mailing address, full contact information and unsubscribe instructions required by the CAN-SPAM Act, or, at the very least, a signature containing the company name, @domainname.com email address, phone/fax number, delete it!
Guest post by Cyndi Papia, Office To-Go. Thanks so much, Cyndi!