What is "spam"?
The term "spam" refers to all the email that you receive from sources that you did not authorize to send you communication. The greatest portion of email sent throughout the internet today is unsolicited messages, otherwise known as spam. These include advertising messages, offers to get rich, adult dating, online pharmaceutical drugs and gambling promotions from sources you aren't familiar with.
You can tell that emails are spam when you don't recognize the sender and the offer seems too good to be true. Some other warning signs are if there is an attached file, the content of the email doesn't match the subject, the content is written in poor English with misspellings, there is a claim that the message is urgent or there is a "limited time" to reply.
Why is it called "spam"?
The word "spam" is often used to describe something that is repetitive to a point that it is bothersome. Email spam is often perpetrated by individuals who send out millions and sometimes even billions of unsolicited messages, and a person who becomes a target of these emails tends to get hundreds or thousands of these over a course of a few weeks.
But why the word "spam"? If you recall an old British comedy group called Monty Python whose shows were aired on public television decades ago, they had a memorable comedy routine where a restaurant menu consisted entirely of choices that included a canned meat product called Spam, a spiced ham concoction that was popular for breakfast in decades past.
The comedy routine featured a waiter who read items from the menu that repeated the word "Spam" increasingly as it replaced more of the items on the menu. Years later, the term was used in 1993 by a Usenet administrator to describe a mistake where a message had been duplicated 200 times by mistake. The term somehow stuck in the early days of the internet, and it now remains the word of choice for annoyingly repetitive messages and emails.
Risks of spam email
Email is an indispensable tool for most people today, and most of us rely on it for important communication with coworkers and those who are close to us. The interesting statistics
from Talos show the actual number of emails sent per month. Amazing is the extremely high percentage of 85% of all emails are spam! With this advancement in technology also comes opportunities for scammers and greedy individuals to bombard people with emails that are designed to convince you to give away your money or personal information. When people fall victim to these scams, it can cause harmful financial losses and sometimes even more severe consequences if identity theft occurs.
Sometimes spam is just for promotional purposes, and the sender is merely trying to generate more customers for his or her business, but there are many cases where the intentions are more malicious. Sometimes the emails can contain malware that infect your computer in order to steal your personal information or damage your company's network or destroy your data.
Spam can also be designed to commit fraud in order to swindle you out of your money. Another problem is that spam can clutter your inbox so that it's difficult to find emails that are important or from people you care about. Sifting through a lot of email can be very time-consuming and detrimental to your productivity at work.
Types of email scams
There are several types of email scams that every person nowadays should understand and avoid. One of them is "phishing" email. This is a scam email that masquerades as a government agency or major retailer with whom you're likely to have a relationship. In a phishing scheme, the email will include a link that will take you to a site where you will be asked to enter personal information or even banking credentials that will give them access to your funds.
Email Spam Tactic 1: 'Misrepresent Sender'
Some of these emails can be sophisticated enough to replicate the logos and graphic designs of the companies or government agencies so that you will assume it is genuine. No matter how legitimate an email looks, always be very suspicious if you're asked to enter any login credentials or other personal information.
Email Spam Tactic 2: '419'
Another common scam is the advanced fee scheme. Many of these spam emails originate from Africa, and they claim to involve large sums of money involving millions of dollars that are tied up pending the payment of a relatively small fee to get it released. This scam is also called the "419" scam because this number is the section of the Nigerian penal code that refers to fraud.
Email Spam Tactic 3: 'Trojan horse'
A third dangerous type of email is the Trojan horse spam. A Trojan horse is a program that contains a hidden component that installs malicious software on your computer. The email will attempt to convince you to install a program. If you do so, a virus or other malicious piece of software will secretly go to work unseen on your computer. These malware programs could log your keystrokes, extract your passwords or provide a hacker with access to your computer when you aren't using it. These malware programs also hijack computers so that they can be used in a network of computers that are used to deliver malware in a large-scale fraud scheme. This is called a bot network.
How to avoid spam and email scams
The first line of defense is to set up your email filter properly so that you will not get inundated with large amounts of spam. Most email services today are set up to filter spam by default, and they have knowledge of previously identified perpetrators of fraud. Even in this case, you will need to take steps yourself to manually reduce the amount of spam you get. In most cases, if you don't know who the sender is, you should mark that message as spam so that it will not end up in your inbox again.
Also, it's very important to be suspicious of any hyperlink in an email, even if it seems to be from a very familiar or trusted source.
The best practice is to manually enter the URL of the website rather than clicking a link that claims to take you to a known website. If an email has an attachment, take greater precautions. If you don't recognize the sender, never open the attached file because these often contain malware. Under no circumstances should you open a file with extension ".exe" because it is certain to be a virus.
If an offer seems too good to be true, you should assume that it is a scam. Any message that describes large sums of money or offers of women who are desperate to fulfill your romantic fantasies is certainly fraud. Any offers that promise to enhance your masculinity or increase your income by a factor of ten is also in that same category.
Some other precautions to prevent harm from spam emails is to make sure you have an antiviral program that is rated very highly and it is updated on a daily basis or even more frequently. It's also important to make sure your firewall is configured so that programs will not install without your permission and knowledge. Your security system should be able to block threats as soon as they start to install on your computer or even block your connection to known malicious web URLs. If you're sending personal or sensitive information via email, it is best practice these days to use an encryption protocol to prevent third parties from gaining access to this data.
By following some common sense and using a few well-known rules of thumb, you should be able to avoid becoming a victim of malicious schemes. It's also important to have a good strategy to filter your email or organize messages so that you can easily find communications related to your work and from people with whom you have a relationship.
Risks of Phone scams
Nowadays, people throughout the world frequently attempt to deceive people and steal their valuable information through phone calls or SMS besides email fraud. The theft of confidential information is a crime, and you can protect yourself from phone scam. Here are some of the general guidelines that you can use to recognize telephone fraud and protect yourself from it. Fraud can present itself to you in multiple different ways. It can be in the form of a spam phone call or an SMS text message. Here is how you can recognize the different types of phone fraud.
Unknown Caller ID
The first way is in the form of a phone call. When you receive a phone call, you typically see a caller ID and the caller's number. If the call is in your phone's contact list, you will see a name, but if your phone does not recognize the number, it is possible that the caller may be a spam caller. Usually, you will see if the phone number is from your local area, but spam callers can mask their phone numbers with your local area code but call from an entirely different area. Spam callers can also mask their phone numbers with a phone number that you know, such as your friend's phone number or your own phone number. Refrain from answering these phone calls because spammers design them to deceive you into answering them and giving your information to the spammers.
Be aware of all unknown phone numbers that call you. Watch for the time that an unknown phone number calls you. If you receive an unexpected call at a suspicious time such as during the day when you are working or late in the evening, check the caller ID immediately to see if a spammer has called you. If you do answer a phone call from an unknown number, be sure to hang up if the caller asks any suspicious questions that can lead to you giving away your confidential information, such as your credit card number or your social security number.
If the caller has an unfamiliar accent or is a robocaller, hang up right away since the caller is likely to be a spammer. A robocaller may ask you to press a certain button if you want to prevent the caller from contacting you in the future. Hang up instead of pressing the button since spammers can use this practice to identify future candidates to spam. If the caller claims to be part of a major organization or agency, verify the number by searching it and proving that the number belongs to the organization. Under normal circumstances, if you have an account with an organization, associates of the organization will notify you if they are going to call you in the future either by mail or by email.
SMS Text Messages
Text messages, as a common source of communication between two or more parties, are another source of communication for spammers. Spammers frequently send text messages about unopened rewards, gift cards with companies that you may or may not shop at, free prizes for completing a survey and potentially harmful links. Unless you are expecting to receive a confirmation message about a product that you recently ordered, avoid messages pertaining to product orders at all costs. These messages typically have links in them that can put malware, such as viruses, on your phone. The links, if clicked on, can scan your phone for valuable information, such as passwords, emails and banking information, and send the information back to the spammer.
If the text message has numerous grammar and punctuation issues, a spammer likely sent it to collect your confidential information. Many times, spammers send personalized SMS text messages with your name. Be wary of these messages and report them to an authoritative figure. The phone numbers of spammers usually contain 9-11 digits with or without parentheses. The parentheses will be present if the phone number is exactly 10 digits longs. When an organization or an agency send you a message, it will likely only have five or digits without parentheses, and its content will have a code of verification or status message. Spam text messages often do not have message headings such as what company sent it or what the message's purpose is.
Likewise with phone calls, if you are not expecting an SMS text message from one of your contacts or an organization with which you are associated, avoid checking the text message since it is likely spam. Sometimes, spammers use trackers on text messages to determine if their target has opened their messages or not. The trackers help spammers determine who is active, and the spammers may consequently continue sending text messages to the active users. You can prevent this by blocking the number that continually sends the spam text messages to you and report them using your text messaging application.
How You Can Protect Yourself from Phone Spam
Spam phone calls and SMS text messages are prevalent throughout the world, but there are some steps that you can take to protect yourself from deceit:
- Check to see the status of a phone number that contacts you. Usually, if the phone number belongs to a spammer, many people will already have reported it and made complaints on the internet.
- Use the Reverse Phone Lookup Technology from check-caller.com
- If a spammer continually calls you even after you hang up multiple times, block the number using the application that you use to make phone calls. The spammer will no longer be able to contact you using that number.
- Avoid clicking on any links that can put malicious software on your cellular device. Sometimes, your text messaging application will alert you if it detects harmful or malicious activity in a link by flagging the text message.
- Check the grammar and punctuation in a text message. If there are noticeable errors and the message is from an unknown sender, a spammer most likely sent the message.
- Use an application to protect yourself. Here you will find the best applications.
- Check for a message heading. Organizations and agencies typically send their messages with their name followed by grammatically correct content.
- Only answer phone calls that you are expecting or that do not have an unknown caller ID. Unknown callers have the potential to steal your information and use it for illegal purposes.
- If you do answer a phone call because you believe it might not be spam, determine how quickly the caller asks any questions. A caller who rapidly asks questions may likely be a spammer who is attempting to swiftly steal your information.
- Determine if a phone call is from a robocaller or an unknown accent. These usually come from spammers.
- Do not give out personal information through a phone call or a text message unless you have verified the phone number. You should only provide your confidential information if you trust the number and the caller is trustworthy.
Phone calls and text messages are some of the common ways that spammers will try to deceive you and steal your confidential information, but you can avoid phone fraud by being wise and understanding the type of call or SMS text message that you receive from a phone number. If you know the phone number and caller, proceed as you normally do. If the phone number claims to be one that you know but is not, verify your suspicions with research and remove contact with that number if necessary.