While many experienced internet users (and inexperienced as well) are used to seeing literally thousands of unread letters in their inbox, some of us want to keep the mail organized. It is also never a pleasant experience to be bombarded by spam emails.
The problem is that many spam letters actually contain viruses and other malicious content that should never be viewed or even opened. In order to avoid such things, you need to learn how to identify spam emails from regular letters sent to you by businesses and friends. Corporations devote significant resources to fight spammers, but a single user cannot rely on automation and vast resources. So what should you do?
Know your enemy
Spam is what we call all emails that are sent out by businesses and scammers to access wide audiences. While the vast majority of spam is harmless and will collect cybernetic dust in your spam folder, some of the letters are actually masked as good-willed messages. As spam filters and efforts from email service providers continue to improve, hackers and spammers have to come up with better and better ideas to infiltrate private networks.
What can you do to identify a spam letter?
There are several important measures that you should know about:
– Check the email address of a sender. Real marketers use corporate servers to send out messages. If the host part of the e-mail address is fishy, consider moving the letter to the spam box immediately and get rid of it. Amazon employees will never use something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” to appear less credible. They will use Amazon servers instead.
– Never open archives attached to letters. Usually, e-mail service providers check files for viruses but won’t open archives. If you see a .zip or a .rar file attached to the letter, don’t open it. Either scan it preemptively or reply back to the sender (if you think that they are legit) and ask for a letter with normal files attached to it.
– Never send back personal information. Your private data is the most important commodity you have on the internet. Never send payment credentials regardless of who asked you to do so.
– Never open applications. If an email contains extensions (.exe), do not open them. In the vast majority of cases, you will get nothing but a glorious virus that will do something malicious or negatively affect the performance of your machine. Other file formats that you should avoid: .cmd, .msi, .REG, .bat, and files that are created by MS OFFICE apps.
– Use third-party apps that are designed to analyze letters and automatically remove spam letters from your inbox. There are programs such as Advanced Identity Protector and Norton Antivirus that can help.
Note that none of the options above is a 100% method of identifying a spam letter. Use all of them to see whether the letter is potentially harmful. In many scenarios, seeing weird files attached to it and not recognizing the sender are certain red flags that should warn you.