To some, Spam is a delicious(?) salty meat. To most of us, spam is the bane of our inbox’s existence. Being able to recognize spam for what it is can be crucial, in some cases, to keeping your identity and bank account in tact; but reducing spam mail altogether is a vital first step to having an organized and efficient inbox.
Most of us know not to send money to help an African princess, or to buy “enhancing” drugs from an unknown source without a prescription, but spam has gotten trickier these days. Many spam e-mails look very legitimate and try to gain access to your most private information by posing as real companies such as PayPal or eBay. These spam mails/scams are also known as “phishing” e-mails.
The Big Tip-Off: When an e-mail lands in your inbox asking (for “verification purposes,” of course…) for you to fill out a form with your account name, password, address, card number, expiration date, and sometimes even your social security number… Alarm bells should go off in your head! 99 times out of 100, this isn’t a real company: this is someone trying to steal your identity. Oh, they’ll “verify” your credit card all right—by spending all your money!
- Never give out your credit card info or social security number in an e-mail.
- Never click on an unknown link
- If you suspect the e-mail could be legitimate, air on the side of caution anyway. Instead of clicking on the link in the e-mail, go straight to the source. For instance, if you get an e-mail from “PayPal” saying that your credit card needs updating, don’t follow the link in the e-mail—take the time to type PayPal’s address into your browser. Trust no one but yourself.
- Don’t click reply. Sure, most spammers use fake e-mail addresses, but the ones who don’t will take that reply (even if you’re complaining) as a signal that your e-mail address is indeed “real” and that there’s not only a real person on the other side (you), but that you’re reading their mail.
While you may be sad that you didn’t actually win that free vacation (or iPad or PS3 or whatever), you can’t get lots of money for no work (don’t I wish!), and there’s no quick fix to repair your bad credit—you’d be a lot more sad if you took the bait and lost your identity.
Reducing Spam in Your Inbox
You may never elude spammers completely, but here are a few tried-and-true tips for reducing their numbers:
- Don’t give out your primary/personal e-mail address to just anybody. Be selective.
- Create a second “junk” e-mail address. You can use this address for signing up for online offers (make sure they’re legit), online forms, short-term correspondence, and anything else you don’t want clogging your “real” e-mail’s inbox (an overabundance of Facebook notices, perhaps?)
- Don’t post your e-mail in a public place. If you post your e-mail address on a forum or other public area online, you’re bound to attract a few spammers
- Turn them in! If you get a “phishing” e-mail (one of those e-mails that looks legitimate), most major companies have a place to report these e-mails now. For instance, if you can an e-mail from “eBay,” you can report it by forwarding it directly to eBay (spoof@eBay.com)
If you find a fake website that is trying to steal personal information, report it by emailing the URL to firstname.lastname@example.org