Email has become a defacto method of communication for businesses and individuals alike. Trusting all email, however, can be a big mistake. Here is a quick read that will help you determine which emails you can open and which you should delete!
A phishing scam is an email in which the perpetrator sends legitimate-looking emails that appear to come from a well-known and trustworthy organization or website, in an attempt to gather personal and financial information from a recipient. Although this article focuses on email scams, remember that phishing scams can come in other forms too, such as via fax.
Two Common Types of Phishing Scams
- The first type of scam asks you to respond to an email with your account password or Social Security number in order to prevent immediate closure of your bank account, email account, or other service. If you receive a message that asks you to send in your password, it is a fraudulent email.
- The second type of scam asks you to click on a link to a fake site and log in with your password to verify your account. Legitimate organizations should never request your password.
If you’ve responded to either of these types of scams, you’ve placed your personal information in the hands of scammers, who can misuse it.
Here are a few simple guidelines to avoid falling into phishing scams.
- Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal information.
- Do not click links in email messages if you suspect the message might not be authentic or if you don’t know the sender.
- Never share password, personal or financial information over email.
- Don’t trust offers that seem too good to be true.
- If you’re still not convinced, copy and paste the text of the email body into a Google search box (be careful not to actually click on anything!). The search results may indicate whether the email is actually a scam.
Email Attachments and Viruses
One of the most common means by which computer viruses and worms spread is through email attachments. When opened, these attachments can give hackers complete control of your machine, initiate an attack on another machine, or start sending out copies of itself to email addresses it finds in your address book. Malevolent software (malware) of this type can often crippled personal machines, email servers, and networks.
Here are a few simple guidelines to ward off malicious attachments:
- Don’t open unexpected attachments (even Word and Excel files can contain macros that initiate harm).
- Don’t open attachments from strangers.
- Don’t open unusual attachments.
- Don’t open attachments from strange-looking messages.
- Make sure your virus protection software is up-to-date.