Spam filters can drastically increase your email security but they aren’t fail proof. No algorithm can completely eliminate the possibility of a malicious message making its way into your inbox. When this happens, you are the last line of defense against fraudsters, viruses and malware. Learning to use email defensively is an easy way to increase your security online and avoid common scams. That’s why we’ve decided to share a few simple tips to help you get started!
#1. Avoid opening suspicious messages
If an email looks like it might be dangerous, then it’s usually better to avoid opening it at all. If you don’t know the sender and the subject line looks fishy, there’s no reason to take any unnecessary risks; just toss that bad boy in the trash and move on. Some signs that you’re looking at spam include:
- It came from an unknown sender
- The message seems to be from a legitimate source, but the email address doesn’t match up
- The subject line contains random letters, numbers or symbols
#2. Watch out for fakes
Even emails that look legitimate at first glance may not be completely safe. Many scammers will put a lot of effort into to making their messages look official. You might receive a message designed to look like it came from your bank or an online service like Pay Pal. Fortunately, there are plenty of clues you can use to spot a fake:
- You don’t remember creating an account with the company in question
- You get an offer that seems too good to be true
- The sender’s email address doesn’t look official (eg: @yahoo.com)
- The message encourages you to send money somewhere or provide personal information
#3. Handle with care
There are a number of simple precautions that you can take to handle your emails safely — especially if you’re not familiar with the sender.
- Always scan attachments before opening them
- Don’t open attachments if they seem suspicious
- Don’t click on any links you’re not sure of
- Don’t provide any of your personal information
#4. Report it
If you receive suspicious mail, the first thing you should do is mark it as spam. This will prevent the sender from targeting you again, and it will also help your email service provider improve their filters. If you think you’ve been targeted for fraud, then you may also want to report the scam to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. They collect information and criminal intelligence to help educate the public about common scams and even assist police forces around the world with their investigations. It never hurts to share what you know!
Last but not least, if you’ve lost money to a fraud, then you should contact your local authorities right away. Make sure to hang on to a copy of the original message as it might be needed if charges are laid.