Cyber Security Lesson 4.5: Protecting Yourself from E-mail Scams

On Monday, we discussed the 5 types of e-mail scams that are most common. While it can be frightening to know that there are hackers targeting you via e-mail, there are ways to avoid becoming a victim:


  1. Know how to recognize e-mail scams: check out our post on Monday to learn how to recognize e-mail scams. This knowledge could save you time, money, and a lot of problems one day!
  2. Filter spam: Most e-mail scams begin with unsolicited commercial e-mail. Therefore, configuring your e-mail application settings to filter spam should help weed out most e-mail scams. But beware: hackers monitor methods e-mail applications and servers use to filter spam and take measures to elude them! Just because you filter spam does not mean you won’t get scam e-mails in your inbox!
  3. Regard unsolicited e-mail with suspicion: Don’t automatically trust any e-mail sent to you! Never click on links or download attachments in unsolicited e-mails.
  4. Treat e-mail attachments with caution: Attachments are the number one method hackers use to get malware downloaded to their victim’s computers! Download attachments only from trusted individuals who have given you prior knowledge that they will be sending you an attachment! Remember, just because you know the e-mail address does not mean that they sent the e-mail.
  5. Use common sense: When an e-mail arrives promising you big money for little effort, accusing you of violating the Patriot Act, or inviting you to join a plot to grab unclaimed funds… take a moment to consider the likelihood that the e-mail is legitimate. On the same note, if you get an e-mail from your uptight boss’s e-mail address telling you to open the link to see a funny joke, take a moment to consider if your boss would really be sending you an e-mail like this. Take care to notice the style of e-mails sent from familiar addresses and make sure that they match up with e-mails they previously sent you (i.e. bad grammar vs. good grammar, capitalization style, proper English vs. slang, etc.). If it is different, they may not have sent it!
  6. Install Anti-virus software and keep it up to date: Not only will anti-virus software protect you from viruses downloaded into your computer, many now have an email scanning feature that will keep your computer free of e-mail borne viruses.
  7. Install a personal firewall and keep it up to date: A firewall will prevent outbound communications from your computer to the attacker if a virus or malware does get installed into your computer.
  8. Learn the e-mail policies of the organizations you do business with: Most organizations that do business online have clear policies about how they communicated with their customers in e-mail. For example, most will not ask for personal information via e-mail. Understanding how the companies you do business with e-mail could help you discover any phishing scams that may try to target you.
  9. Configure your e-mail client for security: There are many different ways to configure your e-mail client to make it less susceptible to e-mail scams. For example, you can make your e-mails appear as “text only” which can protect you from scams that use HTML to disguise themselves. Have your IT department help you configure your e-mail in a way that works best for you.

While this is the last lesson we are going to be giving you, we encourage you to keep up-to-date on your cyber security knowledge. Remember: Knowledge is power and knowing the best ways to protect yourself will keep you from being another victim!

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