Anyone with an email account has no doubt waded through spam, a.k.a. junk mail, in their inbox -- perhaps in the form of a “phishing” scam that tries to get you to reveal personal information.
You know, the ones that look like authentic messages from your bank, credit card company or favorite online retailer. They usually have familiar logos and wording, but are really a malicious attempt to lure you into giving out personal or financial information so the scammer can steal your identity for financial gain.
A typical phishing attempt looks something like this: "We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, immediately click the link below to confirm your identity."
They often have a sense of urgency, and often pretend they're acting in your interest.
You never want to click on the link in these emails because you're one step away from voluntarily giving up personal information, plus some of these sites contain malware that could infect your computer.
Never reply to the sender, either, because all you're doing is confirming your email address is valid, which invites more phishing attempts and spammed messages.
Phishing emails are often sent to millions of addresses at the same time, in the hopes a few bite. Scam artists don't know if you're really getting these emails, but writing back proves you did.
Jut tap delete whenever you get a suspicious email like this. Your bank or Internet Service Provider (ISP) will never ask you to confirm sensitive information like this. You could also forward the entire email to the financial institution or ISP its spoofing or send it to the authorities, but I wouldn't get your hopes up. Tech-savvy scammers are often hard to track down and many of these emails originate from overseas.
Here’s a fun but educational video I did with eBay on phishing scams a few years back:
Also, some general tips to dealing with spam:
• If you’re getting a lot of junk mail, you might want to increase the strength of your junk mail filter to catch more of this garbage (check the Settings or Options area of your email program or webmail site)
• Install and maintain anti-malware software (which includes virus detection), a computer firewall and web browser with an anti-phishing feature can all help act as an extra line of defense from some of these malicious types. Many good computer security programs can also help segregate emails you want from those you don’t want.
• Set up a free webmail account – such as an extra Yahoo! address – and use that for online shopping, contests and such, and not your main personal or work email address.
• The only exception to the “don’t write back” rule is if you’re receiving newsletters or other marketing materials you might’ve signed up for once upon a time – perhaps from your favorite retailer -- and you no longer want to receive them. Look for the “Unsubscribe” option at the bottom of the email.
• Bottom line? If you’re getting spam that promises you cheap Viagra, fake Rolex watches or money from a Nigerian banker, simply tap delete and go on with your day. Ignore emails that claim to be from your bank or ISP; when in doubt, contact them on your own instead of writing back.