Spam was introduced in the late 1930s as a tinned form of ham that was easy to eat. It quickly became ubiquitous, so much so, that in 1970 Monty Python created a skit about a couple who go to a diner where Spam is in nearly every dish. Throughout the comedy sketch, Spam is said over 132 times and at one point one of the characters yells, “I hate Spam.” It’s because of this comedy moment that unsolicited and unwanted emails have come to be known as spam. The problem is, it’s hard to spot spam these days.
There are about a million different kinds of spam messages, here’s nine of the most popular (in no particular order) and how to identify that they are spam:
- Emergency messages – These often come from family, or people on your contact list, usually asking you for money because they are stranded. While you may have relatives traveling, it’s a good idea to reach out to them using other means of communication when you get an email like this. Be wary, especially if they don’t want to give a phone number or exact location.
- Requests to update your account – These usually come in after a website has had a security breach. They almost always ask you to update contact information, and usually provide a link. Clicking this link will take you to a site that looks almost exactly the same as the real one, only this one usually has viruses or other malicious intent. If you ever get an email like this: Read the email and sender’s email address carefully – they usually have spelling mistakes – and don’t click any links. Instead, close and log out of your email, go to the website and log in.
- Requests for your password – Sometimes spammers don’t even bother to set up elaborate websites, they’ll just grab the company logo, make a fancy letterhead and send you an email, or message asking you for your password. This type of spam usually comes from scammers posing as representatives of a bank or credit card company. Never, ever reply with your password. Organizations do not ask for passwords over email.
- Obvious misspellings – Unless you work with people or companies with employees who aren’t native English speakers, obvious misspellings in messages e.g., ‘Here iS som3 FREE Stuffz’, usually indicate the message is spam. If you’re not sure, and know the sender, contact them. If you don’t know the sender, or the sender has an email address like: pradaoutletonlinestore4u.comGliemATgmail.com, it’s spam.
- Pleas for help – This is a tough one, we all want to help people, but when we receive pleas to help the poor starving hipsters of Manhattan, you have to be skeptical. Charities don’t email you unless you put your name on a mailing list, or gave them your email when you last donated.
- Contest winner – The main rule here is: If you didn’t enter the contest, you’re not a winner, no matter how sweet the prize. The same goes for those spam pop-ups on some of the more adult oriented websites. You’re not the 1,000,000th viewer and clicking on the link, or shooting the three ducks won’t get you a free iPad. You will get more spam however, or a virus if you’re a really good shot.
- Chain emails – These have been circling the globe more or less since the beginning of the Internet and have now made their way onto Facebook and other social networks. The vast majority of them are harmless, but, they are annoying. Think about it, you get one telling you to forward to 10 people or a cute, fluffy kitten will be shaved. If you forward it to 10 people, you’re now the spammer. If you get emails like these, they are spam, just delete them.
- Messages in attachments – Be extra cautious with this one. If you get an email from any contact that says something along the line of, “Please see my message in this attachment,” or has nothing at all in the body, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be spam. That attachment is likely some malicious software. No organizations or companies will send you messages in an attachment, so when you get one, just delete it.
- Awesome deals – Contacted out of the blue by someone offering you an all inclusive ski trip to Steamboat Springs Colorado for just a dollar? Or how about an LV Handbag for just USD$10? These deals seem too good to be true, and what’s the rule with things that seem too good to be true? They are. Just because it’s in an email, or chat message doesn’t mean it’s real. If you get these, don’t click on any links or even reply to the sender, just delete or ignore them.
There’s one thing in common with nearly all forms of spam, messages usually contain links. If you’re ever unsure about the link, hover your mouse over it for a few seconds, and your browser should tell you where the link will take you i.e., Chrome will display the address at the bottom of the window. If the link looks unfamiliar, or seems wrong, don’t click it.
An important thing to be aware of is that Spam is unwanted, or unasked for. If you sign up for a daily newsletter, that’s not spam, you agreed to allow the company to send you messages. Luckily, most of these have links you can press at the bottom of the message to unsubscribe. To learn more about spam, and how we can help you stop it, please contact us.