Email provides us a convenient and powerful communications tool. Unfortunately, it also provides scammers and other malicious individuals an easy means for luring potential victims. The scams they attempt run from old-fashioned bait-and-switch operations to phishing schemes using a combination of e-mail and bogus web sites to trick victims into divulging sensitive information.
To protect yourself from these scams, you should understand what they are, what they look like, how they work, and what you can do to avoid them. The following recommendations can minimize your chances of falling victim to an e-mail scam:
- Email commonly transports malware, like viruses, that can result in identity fraud or computer damage. In addition to the transmission of malware, phishing also threatens email users.
- Filter spam
- Don't trust unsolicited email. If you receive an attachment from someone you do not know or are not expecting, do not open it, delete it.
- Treat email attachment with caution. Only open email and attachments from known senders.
- Never open or respond to SPAM (unsolicited bulk email messages).
- Be suspicious of emails asking for personal information.
- Be selective when providing your email address.
- Never respond to email requests for personal information, no matter how official the source seems to be. Banks, credit card companies, and other legitimate businesses never use email to ask you for information such as account numbers, social security numbers, user names, or passwords. Such attempts to elicit personal information are known as phishing, and they are another tool that identity thieves use to hijack other people's credit. Don't fall for these scams. If you receive a phishing message that claims to be from a company with which you do business, contact that company yourself, using a phone number or email address that you have found independent of the suspicious email. You'll be helping the company to stop the scam and warn its customers against it.
- Don't respond to offers that seem too good to be true: they generally are. Ads for schemes to earn large sums of money by surfing the Internet, for example, are phishing scams. Ads for miraculous products are typically fraudulent, as well.
- Don't click links in email messages. It is safer to retype the web address than to click on it from within the body of the email.
- Install antivirus software, keep the license current, and keep it up to date. Antivirus software can be purchased at an electronics store, either online or offline. Some vendors include Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, etc.
- Most antivirus vendors sell a perpetual license that requires annual renewal in order to continue receiving updates that protect against the latest threats. The annual renewal fee is often less than the initial purchase of the Antivirus software.
- Install anti-spyware software, keep the license current, and only download items from the internet from trusted sources. Some vendors include Symantec, McAfee, Microsoft, Webroot, and Spywaredoctor.
- Is spyware more dangerous than malware? Spyware collects data and shares it with outside parties without your knowledge. It's made more dangerous when combined with malware and spread by cyber criminals. That's why it's important to have both Antivirus and Anti-Spyware protection.
- Install a personal firewall and keep it up to date. Microsoft Windows and Mac operating systems and even Antivirus software programs often include firewalls. Check the Help section of your computer.
- Check your operating system to verify that your firewall is turned on. If you don't have a firewall, install one. Use a firewall in conjunction with Antivirus and Anti-spyware software.
- Check your computer operating system's automatic update settings to ensure you're receiving updates. Check your software programs for updates that may be available in the "Help" menu or on the software vendor's website. Ignoring these recommendations may leave you vulnerable to identity theft, information theft, the abuse of your computer for illegal activity, the receipt of bogus or illegal merchandise, and financial loss.
- Do not send sensitive information via unencrypted email.
State Savings Bank will never ask you to provide account or personal information via unencrypted email.