We all know and hate it: it’s annoyingly persistent, attention-grabbing and impossible to avoid. Yes, I’m talking about spam e-mail, creeping like a pesky bacterium you have to learn to live with. Junk e-mail has been around for a couple of (Internet) ages and has no intention of going away.
However, never lose hope of a lighter mailbox. Take a look at these promising tips to help you identify spam and learn how to prevent it.
First of all, how do you recognize a spam e-mail? Pay attention to:
- The sender: most of the e-mails are sent through bogus addresses that seem valid.
- The subject line: usually includes “money” (“Earn”/”Save”/”Win money”) and promotes a sense of urgency (“Last chance”, “Order today”, “Call now”). Check out a complete list of spam-triggering words commonly found in subject lines, here.
- The message: emotional or business-oriented, spammers lure you into giving away your financial information, passwords or PIN numbers under a variety of false pretexts such as doing a good deed for charity or receiving an unexpected prize.
It may seem easy to identify a foe, but let’s use this recent Facebook scam as an example.
What’s wrong with this picture?
- Inviting you to reply to an e-mail address which differs from the sender: if the sender is fake and risks being shut down, the second account is the one controlled by the spammer.
- The huge amount of money involved.
- Winning a prize even if you haven’t agreed to participate in any type of contest.
- Keeping your winnings a secret.
- Deceiving mobile phone number: usually redirects you to a fake location so the spammers cannot be traced.
Now that you have spotted a bad e-mail, it’s best to cut the evil off at the root and reduce spam as much as possible. Here’s a list of good practices:
- 1. Don’t reveal your e-mail address in forums, blog comments or chats and don’t sign up using your primary e-mail address. If you must expose yourself online, use a special address for social networking. You can also trick spammers by leaving out periods and “@” signs or write with letters: "yourname AT yourdomain DOTcom."
- 2. Make your address almost impossible to guess. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s another easy way for spammers to add names to their lists. Once given a domain name, a program will send mails to all sorts of (likely) user names at that address, from aaaronb@ to zzziddyw@, for example.
- 3. Use an efficient spam filter. It’s essential that you use a tool to sort out the spam you’re receiving. The most powerful ones include an advanced Bayesian filter to statistically identify spam based on word patterns or word frequency. To learn more about this technology, you can check BullGuard Spamfilter. And try it – it’s free.
- 4. Never reply to or click on any links in a spam message. Follow these golden rules to stay safe: don't buy any products or services advertised in spam, don't reply to or forward the e-mail and don't click on anything! If you do, you risk catching a virus or your address might be used to spam your entire contact list. And I’m sure your friends wouldn’t be happy about it.
- 5. Report spam to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you receive an e-mail who seems to come from a friend, but it’s actually fake, you can complain to his/her ISP at an address like: abuse@ (ISP’s name).com; firstname.lastname@example.org, for example. To find out which ISP to contact, you can use SpamCop , a tool meant to analyze spam messages and send complaints on your behalf.
Remember, being skeptical and staying informed will always help you stay out of trouble! Has spam ever complicated your life?