As the web continues to grow, computer users must learn to deal with an annoyance called spam (and I’m not talking about the canned meat, which I was never that fond of either)!
So what is spam exactly? Spam is any kind of unwanted online communication (such as flooding the internet with the same message). The most common form of spam is unwanted email, although you can also receive text message spam, instant message spam and social networking spam.
Some spam is annoying but harmless. However, other spam can be malevolent, like when part of an identity theft scam (called a phishing scam) or other types of fraud.
To protect yourself against email spam, use email software with built-in spam filtering and follow these guidelines from Microsoft to help keep spam from becoming a real problem:
- If you receive a phishing email message, do not respond to it. If an email looks suspicious, don't risk your personal information by responding unless you're certain that the message comes from a legitimate source. This includes options such as "Remove me from your list" or “unsubscribe.”
- Delete junk email messages without opening them. Just opening spam can alert spammers, or put your unprotected computer at risk.
- Utilize the junk mail tools in your email program. For example, Windows Live Hotmail gives you the option to unsubscribe from mail that you had previously trusted or requested. This sends a notice back to the sender to have you removed from their list, while at the same time automatically adding the sender to your block list.
- Approach links, images, and attachments in email messages with caution. Links can take you to phony sites that encourage you to transmit personal or financial information to con artists (avoid clicking a link in an email message unless you are sure of the real target address, or URL). Pictures in email messages can be adapted to secretly send a message back to the sender (spammers rely on information returned by these images to locate active email addresses). Images can also contain harmful code and can be used to deliver a spammer's message in spite of filters. And attachments might be viruses or spyware that download to your machine when you open the attachment file (if you don't know where the attachment is from or if it is unexpected, don't open it). Be wary!
- Finally, if a deal or offer in an email message looks too good to be true, it probably is. Use your common sense when you read and respond to email messages.
It has been said that personal information stolen in identity theft isn’t really stolen at all, but given away unknowingly by users. Use this information then to be careful concerning spam, and remember the age-old adage that “it is better to be safe than sorry.”