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It’s not uncool to be smart - safety tips for email users...

had enough spam?

Do you want to ‘Get Viagra for a great price’ or ‘Make Money Today’ or ‘Get any software almost for free’.

Have you received messages from people you don’t know saying ‘I love you’ or ‘Congratulations you have won’, ‘Read this immediately’ or even ‘Forward this to 10 other people or...’

If these are emails you didn’t ask for from people you don’t know, then they are ‘spam’. We all get loads of spam and it is a real pain in the neck. And for the moment at least it is something that we have to learn to deal with. Click here to learn about viruses, chain emails and phishing, and about how to reduce spam.

Spam comes straight to your email address. We know it tries to sell us things – we are all familiar with receiving emails trying to sell drugs, offer us loans and even show us pornography.

Spam can be really nasty – it may contain a virus, it may try to trick us out of money, or try and threaten us to do something we don’t want to do.

viruses: Viruses can delete your files and destroy your computer, Trojans can effectively take over your computer, and both of these travel in email, via attachments or links. The best protection against viruses and Trojans is - If you receive an email from someone you don’t know which has an attachment, do not open the attachment or click the link, whatever it says in the message. Sometimes the virus sender will try and trick you into opening the attachment or clicking the link by writing a message such as ‘This is important’, ‘Read this’, or ‘I love you’. It is best to delete the email.

chain emails: Chain emails, run on the same principals as chain letters, and can range from promises of money to hoax virus alerts. The idea is that when you receive a chain email, you are encouraged to forward it on to a number of people on your contact list, so you are forming a part of the chain with respect to the journey of the email. Chain emails can be annoying or offensive. However sometimes chain emails threaten people and can be frightening to the recipient. One email sent to Chatdanger describes how a 13 year-old girl has had to sleep in her mother’s room since receiving an email which contained a picture of a dead child and which said that this would happen to her if she did not forward this to 15 of her friends. These kinds of chain mail could be a criminal offence, so do not forward them - it could get traced back to you.

phishing: Some emails will try to trick you into giving away personal information. If you are sent an email supposedly from a bank or large company asking you send and confirm your bank or card details, this may well be phishing. It works something like - someone receives an email which asks them to update their bank account information. They then open the link in the email to what they think is the website of their bank. They write their bank account number and password – and afterwards they discover that the website was false and that criminals have tricked them and have abused their account.

Some people have followed the instructions and given out sensitive personal information and lost a lot of money in this way.

to protect yourself against nasty spam

  • Never open attachments from people you don’t know. Sometimes viruses might be sent unknowingly in attachments from your friends and family – check with the person who sent it if you are unsure about an attachment they sent.
  • Don’t click on any links in spam. You do not know where you will end up, and it will make you vunerable to receive viruses.
  • Don’t forward spam on to your friends, no matter how threatening it is or what you have been promised.

want to reduce spam in your inbox?

  • Choose an email address that is difficult to guess, ie a series of numbers and letters. It is best not to have any identifying information in your email address, such as full name, age, or location.
  • Don’t put your email address anywhere on the Internet, in a profile or on a personal website for example. It is worth using a separate account to your personal one when entering competitions or other things online which require an email address.
  • Only give out your personal email address to family and friends.
  • Never reply to spam. Even if it says ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘Be removed from the list’ do not reply, as it may just confirm your email address to the sender and may mean you get even more spam!
  • Spam filters or junk mail filters can offer some protection by diverting suspected spam into a junk mail folder – ask your email provider about this.