Email is a great form of communication between family members and within teams at the office. It's efficient, cheap, versatile and nearly instantaneous. With so many positive reasons for using email in your personal and work life, however, it's important to remember that there are also negative aspects to using email. Spam is common for nearly all email users, which has potential to also introduce viruses.
In order to combat the negative effects of email, there are certain things that we should all be aware of. Here are 5 tips for staying safe when using email.
1) Be Aware of Phishing Attacks
Phishing is a type of Spam in which an email falsely identifies itself as one coming from a bank or another institution in the hopes that you will take action based on its apparent legitimacy. For example, you receive an email from Bank of America asking you to click a link to verify your new checking account. In most cases, these emails look legitimate, but if you look close enough, you will see inconsistencies (bankoffamerica.com vs. bankofamerica.com). In most cases, common sense is your best defense here. If you haven't opened a new checking account with Bank of America recently, yet you received an email to verify your new account, that should raise a red flag. Delete the email.
2) Never Reply to Spam
This one may be fairly obvious to most, but not to all. When you receive an email that is considered junk or spam, avoid the temptation to reply to the email in order to give the sender a piece of your mind. This will only make matters worse. Remember that the sender doesn't know you personally. In most cases, they are simply using a mass email list that they obtained from somewhere else, or the addresses used are randomly generated. By replying to an email, you are verifying that your email exists and that you are actively checking the account. This will cause you to receive more spam.
3) Think Twice Before Opening Attachments
The Internet is full of viruses. The easiest and most common way to spread these viruses is via email. If you receive an email with an attachment and either of those look or feel suspicious, err on the side of caution and do not open it! Opening a virus-infected file will not only infect your own computer, but it will also likely infect the computers of those in your contact list.
4) Automate the Spam-filtering Process
Manually identifying and filtering spam can be a daunting task. Most email hosts like Yahoo!, Gmail and iCloud services offer their own spam-filtering features. In addition, OS X Mail, Microsoft Outlook and most other mainstream mail apps also have built-in spam-filtering tools. Don't be afraid to use them!
5) Never, Never, Never Forward Spam to Friends or Family
As funny as some spam messages can be, it is never ok for you to send it on to a co-worker, family member or friend. This not only puts the other person at risk, but also puts their entire contact list in harms way as well. This is bad for you (and your reputation), them and everyone.