Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Protect Yourself From Spam

E-mail has become an integral part of our lives, however, the flipside of it is that it can become annoying.

Especially when it comes in the form of spam.   

The definition of spam is that it is any “…unsolicited message or posting, regardless of its content, that is sent to multiple recipients… Not only does it clog up your inbox, it can also be dangerous. Spam can contain viruses or phishing emails that try to steal your online identity and credit cards.

It is reported that as much as 94 percent of all emails you receive is considered spam that is not only slowing down servers, affecting the performance of PCs and other computer hardware, but also your work performance too.

There are many tactics that spammers use to gather email addresses. Some set up fake websites to get you to sign up for something in order to capture email addresses while others use advertising malware to send spam. They can also build their email lists by using scripts to compile email addresses from bulletin boards, websites, newsgroups and forums.  Some unethical webmasters will even sell email addresses to spammers.

Just like sending junk mail to your mailbox, spammers send unsolicited email hoping that you’ll buy their products or services. With the cost of emails running in the pennies, spammers can afford to send out millions of emails. They only need a few responses in order to make a profit from their campaigns.

To reduce the amount of spam that comes to your email account, here are a few tips:

1.       Never click on anything in an unfamiliar email.    If you don't know the sender - don't open it! Any response made on an unfamiliar email lets the spammer know that your email address is active and will leave the opportunity for them to send more spam.  Be wary of emails from senders that you don’t recognize that hold attachments. They may certainly have viruses.

2.       Never send personal information through email. Watch out for emails that request any personal information from you. Be careful of any email messages that ask you to send credit card numbers, passwords or any personal information through email. Spammers will create fake e-mails that look like they are from PayPal, Facebook, or other popular sites. In many cases, clicking on these emails will lead you to a third-party site that will try to trick you in providing personal information.  And under any circumstances, do not email anyone your social security number.

3.       Don’t open an unfamiliar email until you have blocked HTML images.  By blocking graphics and HTML images in your emails, it prevents spammers from being alerted when you open the message. Tracking software embedded in the HMTL can identify when an email has been opened by the image that has been uploaded on your browser or email provider.

4.       Watch out for red-flag terms. Beware of phrases, such as "You have won!" , “How to collect your prize!” or "Verify your account." These are ways for spammers to try to get you to click on the email and see if it’s an active email address.

Each of the suggestions above in isolation doesn’t provide you with the best protection. When you combine all of them together, along with using proper anti-spam software, and being wary of divulging personal information online will make for an effective protection against unwanted email.