Everyone who uses the internet has more than likely been targets of spam at one time or another. At first they are easy to dismiss for internet experienced persons, however for the inexperienced user of the internet, the messages contained can sometimes be intimidating and in some instances lead to trouble (I will come onto a personal example later).
Spam can take several forms; email and search engine spam are just two, but the one we will concentrate on in this article, and also the one you will, and have most likely encountered, is via email.
Spam is defined as unsolicited bulk mail, much of which is caught in your “bulk” or “trash” folder found in your email service provider control panel. You have probably often seen a mass of these types of emails in you bulk folders when checking for email that you actually have consented to receive, as many emails are caught by spam filters even though they should not. The majority of spam you may receive will be of a sexual or gambling nature, however over the past few months I have noticed an ever-increasing number of scam emails asking for sensitive information, claiming to be someone they are not.
Paypal and eBay scams are a prime example of these types of emails known as “phishing scam emails”. The email will be along the lines of:
“We have noticed an irregularity in your account details and require you to update them immediately.
Failure to do so will result in the permanent closure of your account –
You can see how these emails can be pretty alarming to an inexperienced internet user who may only occasionally use the internet to sell or buy items on eBay for example. Some of the emails will look very convincing, and will use the images and symbols of the respective company, however be very cautious and take heed to the following important point:
If you are unsure of the legitimacy of the email, do not follow any link contained within the email to an external website. Instead, type the website address that you know is correct into your browser directly, so that you are safe in the knowledge that you are not using a fraudulent website.
Failure to do this may result in your account being hijacked by the scammer; it’s as easy as this. You follow the link in the email to a website claiming to be, and also looking very much like one where you have an account. The website will ask you to input your username and password to access your account and voila, you will have now sent this information to the scammer, allowing them access to your account containing sensitive information about you.
Another type of email scam that has been very popular is where you are notified to be the very lucky winner of a lottery, even though you have never entered the lottery in the location claiming your success! This is where the example of a personal experience comes in.
Many people reading this will be thinking “I’ll never fall for one of these scams”, however the unfortunate reality is that many people will do so. An elderly relative of mine received one of these lottery scams from Spain, and then insisted on following up with the email scam, even though they had never even entered the lottery draw. The only stumbling block was that the bank account details required, needed to be sent by fax, which she couldn’t do, and despite the frustration that this caused I of course refused to help send it.
There are measures that you can take to help avoid being targeted by spammers; a few have been mentioned here. However, in addition never reply to a scam email as it will notify them that the email address is live and also that you have read the email, leading to further spam.
Of course there are many other threats from spam that are not discussed here, such as viruses and trojans being sent via email attachments.