It’s fair to say that we all get far more than our fair share of spam these days, which is simply a result of the Internet’s expanding prominence in our lives. For all the wonderful things the Internet has brought about, it has also made it that much easier for spammers and scammers to try and hit you where you live. Fortunately, most of us are so used to dealing with spam and phishing emails that we know better than to open one by now.
That said, first we have to be able to identify it. While many of us who use the Internet day in and day out are quite good at this, the face of spam and scam emails is always changing. What’s more, for those not so trained in the ways of the Internet (say, your grandparents) the chances of opening an ill-fated phishing email are all the greater.
That’s why you’ll want to read up on how to spot a phishing email.
Here are a few basic pieces of advice to help you and your loved ones avoid being the next targets of a phishing scam.
Don’t Open the Email
The first and most important piece of advice here is simple – if the email in question looks in any way suspicious, do not open it! All it takes is one inopportune click to send your state of affairs into disarray. If you think an email looks suspicious, there are many potential next steps, ranging from asking someone’s opinion to scanning the email and your computer for viruses.
The one thing you should never do? Open the email and find out what it contained the hard way.
One of the biggest giveaways of some spam and phishing emails are their headers. Emails which seem too good to be true almost always are. If you’ve gotten an email which seems to promise way more than is plausible, it’s almost certainly spam.
The classic example here is that of the “Nigerian Prince” email. This particular scam has robbed countless people over the years. If someone emails you claiming to have or need mass sums of money, and asks for your bank information, or for you to click a link in the email, that’s a dead giveaway that you’re on the brink of a major scam.
Ask Friends Before Opening
On the other hand, there are emails which try to pass themselves off as quite authentic and close to home by using the name of one of your friends and making the same request. Since it’s your friend’s name on the email, you’re more likely to click on the links or send the money requested.
That’s precisely why you should not do so – at least not right away. Instead, message your friend via phone, text, Facebook, WhatsApp, or other means if they did indeed send the message. Chances are they have not, and it’s instead someone who is trying to impersonate them. Asking your friend can help spare you from opening a phishing email and likewise inform your friend of the situation and allow them to check the safety of their account.
Above all, you’ll want to always be vigilant. The nature of phishing emails is always changing, so be on your guard, and don’t open anything that you feel is suspicious.