Protect yourself from email scammers

Scammers get more clever every year

Boston, MA 11/09/2009 01:00 PM GMT (TransWorldNews)

A lot of us are already very familiar with the frustrations of spam: unsolicited e-mail advertisements. In recent years, unwanted emails have evolved in an attempt to avoid increasingly specialized filters and wary recipients. We've put together a list of red flags to help you quickly spot e-mails that may be harmful to your computer and your wallet.

Suspicious attachments

Attaching files to an email is a quick and simple way to share files with your friends and co-workers. The downside is that unscrupulous spammers can attach files such as viruses and trojan horses in the hopes that an unwary recipient might download the file and infect their computer. If you receive an email with an attachment that you weren't expecting, be very careful about downloading the attachment or even opening the email.

Links that don't make sense

In an email supposedly from Yahoo, a link to a specific page on Yahoo's site appears. So why does the text of the link not begin with ""? Because it's a scam. Many hackers attempt to gain account information or even credit card numbers by pretending to be respectable web companies asking for information about your account. These emails typically have a link to a page where you can reset your password, confirm your credit card information, or log in to access some special new feature. To spot these bad links, you will need to look at the url: the address of the page that is being linked to. All urls begin with "http://" or "htpps://" and from there vary from website to website. If the url isn't visible in the text of the link, you can hover the mouse over the link and see the url in the lower left corner of your web browser.

Notices about accounts you don't have

Scam emails that disguise themselves as being from major websites are betting on their recipients actually having accounts with that website in the first place. If you get an email notice about your facebook account when you never even signed up with facebook, the odds are very good that this is a phishing or virus email.

Password reset requests you didn't send

One of the most common phishing emails currently in circulation is the fake password reset. These emails claim that you recently made a request for a new password, and direct you to a webpage where you can enter your "old" account name and password. You may be able to identify these emails by the link urls or because you don't have the account that you would supposedly be resetting the password for in the first place. Even if you don't see anything worrying with the link or the account information, never respond to a password reset email that you didn't specifically request.

Sender addresses that don't add up

An official email from will be sent from an account that ends with If "" is sending you important updates about your YouTube account, it's a safe bet this is also a malicious email. If your email system hides sender information, you can change  your settings to show full headers or usually click a link right in the email to show all of the sender information.

Money transfer plots

Typically sent from Nigerian doctors or businessmen, these emails claim that there is some enormous amount of money sitting in an account somewhere that the sender wants transfered to the US before something happens to it. It's not uncommon for these emails to be entirely in caps lock and poor English, although there are exceptions. These emails are phishing attempts, attempting to get your bank account information so that the sender can access your funds. No matter the pretense for the email, you should never share bank account information with anyone you don't know. Newer varieties of these emails claim to be from "a member of your church."

Strange emails from co-workers

The most dangerous and hard to pick out malicious emails are the ones sent by your friends and other contacts. Typically if you receive a suspicious email from a friend or co-worker, it's either because their machine has been infected by a virus or because their email account has been compromised. If you see an email from one of your contacts that contains strange characters in the subject, has attachments that you weren't not expecting, links to a file sharing site, or otherwise looks unlike the correspondence you're used to from that person, take the time to check with them before clicking on any links or downloading any attachments.

Emails from yourself (that you didn't send)

These types of emails can be unsettling when you find them. If you find an email from your own account sitting in your inbox that you know you didn't send (and you have not granted anyone else access to your account) immediately change your password and security question for your account. After that, check your "sent mail" folder to see if any other emails went out that you were unaware of. Let everyone who received one of these suspicious emails know that you did not send the emails, that they should not read them or click any links or attachments and that you suspect  your account was compromised. You can also let your email provider know about your concerns. If this problem recurs, your computer may be infected and need virus cleanup service performed.

As users and email filters become more aware of these malicious emails, scammers will develop new schemes to get at your computer, bank account, and other information. The best weapon against these attacks is a healthy dose of skepticism, though even cautious users can fall victim to scams and viruses. If you believe you may have a compromised email account or infected  machine, or if you just want to find out more about how to prevent these problems, give Geek Choice a call any time at 1-800-GEEK-HELP (433-5435). We can help you with
Virus Removal, Spyware Removal and general computer repair.


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