Look at your email inbox. You will see your Aunty sent you a YouTube video of funny cats. An old college buddy sent you a joke that has a fart as the punchline or the small grocery list your significant other wants you to pickup after work.
You may also notice that letter from Tatiana from Russia ‘looking fore perfekt partner’. She sent you a photo, so she wants one back from you.
Or Ronald from the World Bank in the Nigerian branch that wants your help in receiving $30 million in US funds from your ‘dead relative’ and he trusts no one to help him the funds out of the country.
Or how the UPS has an unclaimed parcel of you being ‘the recipient’ and wants you to create an account to claim, by clicking a link in the email.
Or how ‘PayPal’ has detected suspicious activity and unless you login, they will treat your funds as unclaimed and close your account in 48 hours.
With dealing with spam in your email inbox, I treat all email as suspicious. Yep, including email from friends and family.
Like marketing, email spam uses human behavior to illicit a response.
There are a few ways you can determine what is legitimate email from spam. Email spam will use human emotions to get you to do something as (an emotion based) response.
The lost love Tatiana from Russia uses the curiosity response, which will be effectively higher with single people.
The Nigerian World bank email attempts to solicit greed.
The UPS example uses FOMO in a time based fashion. It also attempts to use fear, in the sense of if you don’t respond within a certain, you will miss out.
Ultimately, spam is designed to commit a crime with you as the victim..
Spam will attempt identity theft, steal money from you, or attempt to obtain information from you like hijack your bank or websites you access. It will attempt to steal your username and passwords.
The most effective weapon you have is to simply delete the email. If you accidentally delete a legitimate email, these can always been resent from the persons sent folder from their email client. You will never miss those cat video’s, so don’t worry.
Legitimate business will never request details or passwords from you, out of the blue. Always, if in doubt, contact the company’s customer service and ask.
If you think you have been scammed or you may have handed over usernames and passwords. Go to your relevant websites or apps and change your details. If you think you may have handed over financial or bank details. Contact that institution straight away. Scammers who have your details will generally be outside your country of residence, banks can halt any outgoing funds going overseas. You can also request a freeze on your account until you change and update your details.
More subtle and harder to capture is ‘friendly spam’. This is when you have family or friends email, hacked by scammers, or infected with a virus or malware that spreads through email.
It’s harder to spot because you may see an email come from a friend like this;
Hey mate, this is WILD you gotta see this! Click on the link…
That link is the Trojan horse. These hijacked emails are harder to spot because if that same friend usually writes emails as stories, the above comment would be out of character, but curiosity will still prompt you to open the link, because your friend sent it, right?
Still, if you see emails from friend, family or work colleagues, the best way to see if the email is legit is to contact them and ask.
If they didn’t send it, to their knowledge, delete it. If it’s a virus email, your friend will thank you for letting them know.
See any suspicious emails or you have email and not sure if it’s spam? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be more than happy to have a look.