How to Control Junk Email -- Really!Tara Swords
In the course of a day, most
of us receive a slew of emails from people we do not know: spam messages,
chain letters, e-newsletters, and advertisements. So in the midst of
this daily onslaught, how do you know which emails and attachments are
safe to open, and which are not?
Here are some strategies for
safely managing your emails so you can keep your computer secure from
threats such as viruses, Trojans, phishing scams and identity thieves.
1. Filter out the junk
Spammers will send consumers 113 billion spam emails every day in 2007,
going up to 235 billion spam emails a day in 2010, according to estimates
from research firm Radicati Group. In other words, no matter how much
junk you get today, it’s only going to get worse.
Fortunately, your email program
probably filters out junk mail for you. Most spam filters these days
do a pretty good job, so don’t turn yours off.
Just remember that technology
isn’t perfect. Junk mail folders won’t intercept every piece of
spam and will occasionally grab a legitimate message. Before you empty
the junk mail folder, do a quick visual scan to save any legitimate
2. Don’t click on links
from people or businesses you don’t know
People who want to steal your bank account numbers, passwords and PINs
are very clever at devising ways to fool you into giving them the information.
Their best trick is sending you emails that look official -- such as
an email that looks like it’s from your bank. These emails are known
Never provide personal information
online unless you’re sure who you’re dealing with, says Jeff Godlis,
director of communications at i-SAFE, an Internet education organization.
Also, watch out for emails that appear to have been sent randomly rather
to you personally.
“Your bank would usually
use your name, or not send account information over email,” Godlis
says. “Also beware of urgent wording trying to get you to click on
a link without thinking -- 'You just won’ or 'Important: Your
account will close in two days.’” This is just like the paper junk
mail you receive by regular mail. Just delete it.
If you think you’ve gotten
an email from your bank asking you to log in, don’t click on the link.
Open your browser and type in the bank’s URL yourself to make sure
you are going to the bank’s real legitimate Web site. If you’re
really uncertain, just call your bank and confirm that the correspondence
is not a fake.
3. Never open attachments
from strangers Some spammers are less interested in stealing your
money and more interested in wreaking havoc on your computer. These
spammers most often send viruses in the form of attachments that launch
malicious code to crash your computer, log your keystrokes or hijack
your email program to send out more spam.
But the tricky thing about
viruses is that they don’t come from only spammers -- they may come
from people you know whose own computers that have been infected. Certain
file types, like .exe or .vbs, often indicate viruses when attached
to an email. (Don’t be confused: Your computer likely has hundreds
of .exe files that are not viruses, but you should be wary of .exe files
that are emailed to you.)
If you get a suspicious-looking
attachment from someone you know, compose a new email to that person
and ask whether the attachment is legitimate. On the other hand, if
an email came from someone you do not know, delete it.
4. Keep your anti-virus
software updated Your anti-virus program is your inbox’s first
line of defense. Don’t turn it off. Remember that new threats and
viruses are created and circulated every day. Let your anti-virus
software update itself automatically so it can spot and obliterate the
5. Don’t ask to be removed
from junk mail lists Of the 113 billion spam emails that will be
sent to consumers daily in 2007, only about half of those messages find
their way to real people. Spammers want to reach real people, not dead-end
inboxes, and that’s why they offer to unsubscribe you from their lists.
Don’t take that offer seriously.
“Don’t try to take your
address off a spam list because all that does is tell spammers that
you are an actual person,” Godlis says. “It tells them that your
email account is active.” In such a situation, you’ll start getting
even more spam.
The best strategy is to treat
different emails differently. If you want to stop getting that
weekly email newsletter that you signed up for (from your favorite bookstore,
or online store) go ahead and click on the “unsubscribe” link.
On the other hand, if you receive an email from an unknown sender, or if it is clearly spam, then don’t take the risk of clicking on “unsubscribe.” Instead, tag the email as spam by using your email service providers spam filter feature. That will be the end of that.
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