Monday, July 23, 2007

Tips to keep spammers at bay

A few tips to help keep your email address and computer safe from spammers/viruses, etc.:

  1. Do not post your email on any websites where public can see it. If you have to, do it with spaces in between and use word "at" instead of @ and word "dot" instead of actual "." e.g. jsmith at yahoo dot com. A lot of spammers use computer programs to search on websites for email addresses and if you don't put @ and . then their program doesn't catch your address, but a human being reading can access your email address.

  2. Ask everyone in your address book to only open emails from you that have your name in the FROM field e.g. John Smith insteaf of jsmith. Most of the time, spammers know our email IDs but not actual names. If you get an email from someone you know and it has their email ID instead of their actual name, do not open or check with them before opening their email.

  3. In your email account's address book, create a new entry with email address aaaaa@aaaaa.aaaaa or something similar. In case your email account gets infected with virus and it starts sending out emails to your contacts with virus, it will try sending email to this address first because it appears first alphabetically in your address book, but since there exists no email address like this, it will bounce back and you will know that your account has been infected with virus, if you didn't know it already.

  4. Never download any attachment if you feel it's suspecious. Because if you have a feeling, it's most likely a virus. Do not be tempted to open attachments. They could cause more damage than we can imagine. Many bad attachments have extensions .pif, .gif, .pdf, etc. but these are not the only ones.

  5. Never click on any link in an email from unknown sender or businesses. Most likely it is a phishing website; "phishing" in simplest language means bad guys accessing your personal information at your disadvantage without your knowledge.
    You can hover your mouse over the link and read on status bar the website name. If it is an IP address (some number like do not click on it. If it's some very long website where the domain name (name before .com) is unknown or strange looking, do not click on it.

  6. Thanks to Chetanbhai for this tip. Try to not expose other's emails (be a good citizen). Most times, it is not important for the recipient to know who else is sent the email. In those cases,

    • Use bcc only; it does not expose others' email addresses.
    • If you are forwarding an email, remove addresses of all previous senders. If needed, insert something like "This message is/was from my friends and I am forwarding it".

I had read an article on Yahoo last year on phishing scams. You might find it interesting as well.

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