Email scams: impossible to avoid?

email scamsIt might just be me, but at this time of year I get totally frustrated by the amount of time that I have to spend deleting scam or spammy emails from my various inboxes.

“Christmas is coming” – yes I know it is, and no I don’t want to buy one of your “Luxury Replicas”. Oh and I don’t care if I will get a “300% bonus on my first deposit” at the Premier Players Club either, I’m just not interested.

And as for Viagra…if I found myself in the unfortunate position of requiring it, I certainly wouldn’t buy it by clicking on a link in an email from someone that I don’t know!

Yet despite my own views on this kind of junk, I bet there are 1000’s of people around the world that fall for these scams on a daily basis (hopefully not you!)

Now before you send me a message or post a reply, YES I do have email filters on…yes I do have message rules in place…and yes I do hit the spam button! Yet despite my efforts and vigilance when handing out my email address, this junk still gets through!

Ok…breathe slowly and clam down Marcus ;)

You see, my reason for bringing this up today is because it actually has a negative impact on my own work from home career…and I know I am not alone.

Not only do I have to spend time removing the obvious scam emails that somehow slip my various layers of security, I now find that I have to spend even more time dealing with an even greater threat…the sophisticated scam email.

For example, a few days ago I received an email from what appeared to be an authoritative figure, and it’s one that we reference on a regular basis here at WFHW…the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Here’s a copy of the email that I received:

bbb email scam

First impressions suggest that this could be a genuine email, but let me first tell you how I reached the conclusion that this was in fact a scam email.

1) Check who the email is from
An email from risk@bbb.org certainly suggests that it’s genuine, but the scammers are becoming very smart and you should not assume that the email is genuine from the address alone.

2) Check who the email is to
Sounds silly, but I have a number of email accounts, and they all serve different purposes. It just so happens that the account this email was sent to is one that I only use for personal contact with friends and family, and it is not connected in any way to any of my online businesses. 1 red flag.

3) Check the wording used in the email
First of all my name wasn’t used, and I’m sure that if the BBB were trying to track me down, they would know my name. It also mentioned an enclosed (not attached) document, which didn’t exist. This is a very smart tactic that encourages the reader to click on any available links in the email. Another red flag.

4) NEVER click on links in suspect emails
This email not only included a link, I was asked to click on it. Another red flag.

5) Search Google for the title of the email, and/or who the email was from
I actually found a hint that this could be a scam by searching for the email address, but the title of the email works nearly every time. In this particular email they used wording that is used by the BBB…”BBB processing” – very smart. Another red flag.

6) Contact the company directly via their website and ask if they sent it
Right away I will add that you shouldn’t do this by hitting the reply button. Instead you need to pull up our good friend Google and search for the company/business by name, and then use the contact details on their website.

Within 3 hours of doing the above I received a reply stating that this was a very smart scam email, and I am pleased to announce that no one has made a complaint to the BBB about any of my online businesses!

Now it is rare that I spend more than a couple of minutes assessing an email like this, but in all I eventually spent about 30 minutes in total on this one. That’s 30 minutes I could have spent writing a new blog post, checking out other scam reports from our visitors, or spending time with my family. That’s 30 minutes that I will never get back damn it!

So, is it possible to avoid wasting time on emails like this, or is it something that we just have to accept?

In situations like the one above, I don’t think they can be avoided. I had no choice but to contact the BBB because I take customer satisfaction very seriously, so it was actually unavoidable. However, it is rare that one of these scam emails actually lands in the right inbox and applies in full to the recipient. I guess it just wasn’t my day!

spamI’m also confident that most people have their spam/scam radars on when checking their inboxes, but sometimes it only takes a lapse in concentration and you have unknowingly been stung.

So I thought I would put together a few additional tips that will hopefully help you to avoid spam and scams in your inbox in 2012 and beyond.

# Use throwaway email accounts for anything unimportant
This serves as a way of protecting your main and most important email account, and use them for anything that you think might result in potential spam at some point in the future.

# Keep your anti virus software up to date
Many of these programs work with your email client and attempt to block known spam/scam emails, so it’s essential that you keep things as up to date as possible.

# Consider filtering all your email through Gmail
I run a number of my email accounts through my Gmail account, and on the whole it is great at spotting risky emails and dumping them in the spam folder. Gmail is free, easy to use, and if anyone is going to do all they can to intercept spam, it will be Google. Open a Gmail account here.

# Check banks/trusted services and their policies on emails sent to you
This is fast becoming something that scammers are exploiting…fake emails from trusted service providers. Make a list of any services that might make contact with you via email, and know and understand how they will contact you. Banks, for example, usually state that they will never ask you to click on a link to log into your account (for a specific reason), so take the time to understand what trusted services will discuss with you via email.

The list of email precautionary measures will of course continue to grow, but for now I hope the above will at least help you to avoid the daily deluge of scams and spam in your inbox!

Marcus – WFHW

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