When we speak about ‘spam emails’, what we mean is,
‘Unwanted or intrusive advertising on the Internet’
The chances are if you have an email address, you will have received spam and scam emails at some point.
So how do ‘spammers’ get hold of your details? Can these emails be harmful? And how can you stop them from cluttering up your inbox?
According to http://runbox.com,
‘Spammers harvest recipient addresses from publicly accessible sources, use programs to collect addresses on the web, and simply use dictionaries to make automated guesses at common usernames at a given domain’
They’re irritating and they clutter up your inbox, but generally speaking, most spam emails you receive will be harmless. According to https://gov.uk/, every marketing email that a company/organisation/website sends must, by law, give the recipient the option to unsubscribe from their mailing list. Usually this can be done by scrolling to the bottom of the email and clicking ‘unsubscribe’.
Here’s an example of a typical place you might find the unsubscribe option in a promotional email I received.
As you can see, the option to opt out is right at the bottom of the email,
They might not have made it stand out at a first glance, but the option is there.
If you’re receiving a fully-fledged barrage of these emails, going through and unsubscribing from them individually might prove irritatingly time consuming. Head to https://unroll.me/ where you can view a list of all your email subscriptions and opt out of them with one click.
So we’ve identified what spam emails are and how you can prevent yourself from drowning in them. Up until now it’s all been relatively harmless. However, unlike Spam which is more often than not sent to you for the purposes of advertising, Scam emails can have far more serious repercussions.
Whilst scam emails might find their way into your inbox in a similar way to spam emails, scam emails are used by criminals to trick the recipient into giving out personal information that will be used for fraudulent purposes.
‘Phishing’ is a term given to these kinds of emails. Often, the individuals who send out these ‘phishing’ emails en masse , design them so that they appear as though they come from a trusted source, perhaps a website that you might hold an account with or even a your bank. Their aim is to get you to disclose your personal information.
Here’s an example of a popular ‘phishing’ email.
PayPal has 165 million active customer accounts, and it’s many of the people who hold Paypal accounts that have been victims of these ‘phishing’ scams. The email above contains the PayPal logo, and even claims to be from PayPal at the top of the page. So it’s unsurprising that so many people have fallen foul to emails such as these, and entered their personal details through the link provided.
There are several ways you can avoid joining the more than one million people a day who fall victim to cybercrime, and ultimately, a bit of close reading and research can make all the difference.
Notice on the email above that the recipient is addressed as ‘Dear Customer’, this non-specific way of addressing the receiver is common in most ‘phishing’ emails and is suggestive of how the email has been sent en masse. If the sender doesn’t address you by your first name, it may well be because they don’t know it. Another way to identify a potential ‘phishing’ email is by looking closely at the email address it came from.
The email above claims to be from PayPal, but the email address, as you can see, is ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Inconsistencies of this kind would not be found in emails from legitimate sources. It’s always worth paying special attention to any email you receive that asks you to divulge any form of personal information. We recommend that you refrain from disclosing any of your details until you’re confident that the email is from a trusted source.
For more information on spotting and avoiding ‘phishing’ emails visit https://www.getsafeonline.org/.