In this day and age, emails have become to us what slate and chalk were to early man. Whether you are 16 or 60, chances are you have at least one email account; but how many emails do you receive each day that is from people you know? And how many emails do you receive each day that you actually want to get? “Not many” is usually the answer to both of those questions.
Did you know that around 293.6 billion emails are sent every single day? And how many of those do you think are birthday wishes from family members, or from people offering you information about something you actually asked about? The number is minuscule. So what are all these other emails in our inboxes, and who is sending them? Welcome to the world of spam emails. In this post, we’re going to look at what spam emails are, how you can avoid them, and, ultimately, how to protect yourself from email spammers.
What is Email Spamming?
The term “spam email” or “email spamming” has been around since the 1990s, so pretty much since we’ve been using the internet. It refers to unsolicited emails from people and companies that you don’t know and haven’t requested information from. The reason behind the majority of spam, or “junk”, the mail is to get you to buy something, so usually, these emails are sent by companies selling products. How many times have you opened your inbox to find messages promoting a new diet that promises you 100lb weight loss in 12 weeks, or an amazing new loan with 0% interest for the first 5 years? You never asked for these emails, and yet here they are!
While most of these emails are harmless and easy to ignore, there is a darker side to spamming, and you may be receiving messages from people and sites that you really don’t to get involved in, such as:
- ad(*)lt content sites
- email links that install viruses into your computer
- people asking for money
- people/companies asking you for your credit card information
- scammers trying to trick you in other ways
The internet is full of unscrupulous people, ready and willing to try and scam you out of your money, so how can you spot these types of emails, and what do you do when you think you’ve received one?
Tricks To Detect A Spam Email and What To Do
Thankfully, we’re living in a time where you can install different software and programs directly onto your computer in order to avoid scanning each email you receive yourself. Anti-spam software will filter suspicious emails out for you, while also protecting you against malware and phishing attacks, which are an advanced type of spamming where fraudsters often pose as reputable, well-known companies in order to manipulate people out of money.
While these programs are fantastic, spam and phishing groups are always thinking of new ways to get around them, and you’re never guaranteed to avoid spam/phishing emails completely, so here are some top tips on how to spot a phony email:
#1 Check The Sender’s Email Address
is it someone you know? If not, where has it come from? The email address itself can often give away if it’s coming from a reputable source or not. Look out for unnecessary dots, dashes, and numbers, as these are clues that the domain name is not genuine. For example, which email address would you trust more?
Jack@hsbc.com or firstname.lastname@example.org?
If you said the first one, you’d be right. Most companies have straightforward domain names and email addresses. Fraudulent sites will try to replicate a big company’s website name as closely as possible by adding in extra characters or numbers around the company name. These are usually easy to spot, but if in doubt, a quick Google search will tell you any company’s real website and domain name. This is an easy hack for how to protect yourself from email spammers.
#2 Look At The Language In The Subject Line
This is the title of the email that will come up in your inbox. Is the title very urgent? Or maybe even threatening? Spammers will use persuasive language to try and get you to open suspicious emails. “Just for you – open immediately!” or “Action required or your credit card will be canceled” are typical subject lines to urge you to open these messages, but be careful! These types of emails may well contain viruses and malware, which can be dangerous for your data security and can harm your computer, meaning they are, at best, inconvenient and, at worst, can cost a fortune to repair. If you don’t recognize the sender’s email address, and the language in the subject line is particularly forceful, chances are this is a spam email.
#3 Check For Language And Spelling Mistakes
This sounds obvious, but even the most sophisticated spammers make mistakes! Do you really think a well-reputed company would send out emails littered with misspellings and grammatical errors? Not to mention, if the email you’re receiving claims to be from “Jill Henderson” at your bank, why does Jill write like English isn’t her first language? Surely with a name like that, she would write fluent English.
That is not to say that foreign people sending emails are fraudulent! But email scams are often written by people whose first language is not English, so if you receive a message from “Dave in Accounts”, check the style of the email. Does Dave write broken English and make lots of spelling mistakes? If so, “Dave” might not be who he says he is.
#4 Lookout For Very Generic Greetings and Sign-offs
Similar to checking the language and spelling of an email, make sure you look to see how the sender has addressed you. For example, if the email claims to be from your credit card company, it should say something like “Dear Mr. Stephens”, or “Good afternoon Mrs. Smith”. Beware of emails that start with “Dear Customer” or “To Our Dear Client”, as these are obvious signs that the sender doesn’t know you and has most likely sent the same email to thousands of people.
#5 Be Careful Of Links and Attachments
spam often comes with links in the email or documents attached to it. Be careful of both of these and check all of the above points before clicking on anything. Did you ask for this attachment? Who has sent it? What’s their email address and which company have they supposedly sent it from?
If you have any suspicions at all that the link or attachment could be spam, don’t open it. Have a look at the email address and type it into Google. If other people have received the same email, and have had a bad experience, someone will have posted about it online!
#6 Beware of Emails That Ask for Personal Information
This is probably the most popular way for scammers to try and get money out of you. By posing as an employee of your bank, credit card company, or even your gym, these con-artists will try to get you to give them your personal details so that they can use it to make fraudulent purchases, or even steal your identity.
This is also very clever, as most people would trust someone from their bank with details of their account, but the truth is, your bank or lender will never ask you for sensitive information by email. Ever. If the message you receive asks for any personal details whatsoever, do not open it and do not respond.
How to Stop Spam Emails and Stay Safe Online
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to ensure you’ll never receive spam emails ever again, but installing anti-spam software and remaining vigilant are the best ways to protect yourself from being conned. Checking the source of the email before you open it, and avoiding links and attachments will keep you safe from viruses and malware; whereas, never giving out personal details of sensitive information will mean that you can avoid financial and identity fraud.
Finally, reporting spam emails will help you reduce the amount that appears in your inbox, and helps your email provider identify what is and isn’t spam in the future.