Recently I read Ann Smarty’s article, How to Identify Email Hoaxes and Scams. I have done a lot of work to identify and prevent receiving mail through tweaking my own inbox. Spam Assassin is a great program, but because of people being clever enough to put together programs to mass spam and how they word their emails, sometimes it is nearly impossible to identify them.
Here are 5 major key factors that an email is spam.
- Sender’s name. The dumbest spammers or the ones that are trying to not use as many dubious ways to contact you may have a funny looking sender’s name. Or if it is written like a letter, it might not even coordinate with the name signed at the bottom of the email.
- Email Address. Although email addresses can be masked these days, email addresses are a big key factor in knowing if an email message is spam.
- Subject. This can be tricky, but because of widespread computer viruses in the past that have taken advantage of many people over the past years if you are getting any email that says “hi, “Hello”, or has your name in it… it is possible it is spam. In fact, I have found that it is more than likely to be the case.
- Content. Skim the article. If it is asking you to do something, even if someone used your contact form, it could be spam. I get loads of people contacting me for sites in my network offering to do some type of service to enhance the site. A lot of times, there is no reference to their professional site.
- Links. If an email seems legitimate, but you are not sure, and there are links, hover over the link and see if it coordinates with the site being advertised. PayPal, Bank of America, Chase, and many more have had people create phishing scams that the email looks so cleverly legit until you hover over the link.
Attachments may or may not be important, however some spammers are using graphics on products or services they are trying to advertise. They could also potentially be a virus. This is not always the case, but it should be mentioned at least.
In general, it is important to not open email you do not recognize. Those who are lucky enough to have Spam Assassin or another anti-spam program can attest to the fact that you will get email that will come through. It is important to either delete or mark it as spam immediately. Use your inbox filter for any persistent spam to put email in the trash so you can guard yourself from even viruses.
What other advice do you have for people needing help identifying spam or hoaxes?