Warning! Is your inbox being swamped with unsolicited emails? Have you been hacked? Have you been targeted? What can you do?
What is in unsolicited emails
Many unsolicited emails are obviously Spam when they contain bad grammar or bad spelling. These can usually be discarded immediately.
These emails seem to be addressed to you personally from sources you don't know. They have many subjects but they all ask you to click a link to:
1) Reply, or
2) Visit a website, or
3) Open an attached file.
The next step is critical.
1) Some ask you to supply your personal details so that these can be used to steal your identity.
2) Some ask you to pay something that you do not owe.
3) Some want you to click a program to load a virus on to your computer to send out more spam. This can be from a website or a file attached to the email.
Where does the link go?
Email programs such as Outlook allow you to see the address behind the link. Then you can see if it is genuinely from whom it says it is from. E.g. If you can see the domain name of the link with an extension RU, then it is from someone in Russia even though the email says USA. Sometimes you can see that the link contains a file with a PHP extension. This is often a program that can load a virus on to your computer.
Emails from your address
If you receive an email saying it is from your email address, it just means that someone has entered your address in the From field, so do not worry. That is easy to do.
But if you suddenly receive thousands of emails saying your email could not be delivered, then do worry! Check the offending email that claims to be from you. It usually means that your hosting account has been hacked. Search your server for recently loaded files. If you do nothing, filters on other hosts may block emails from your address because it has been sending Spam.
You are asked to login and enter your personal details so that your identity can be stolen. Real banks don't do that. You will notice that these also come from banks that you do not use..
Prizes, Gifts or Bequests
Emails ask you to login and enter your personal details to claim a large amount of money so that your identity can be stolen. If it sounds too good to be true it is probably not true.
The Nigerian Letter
You are asked to help some corrupt official move some millions of dollars out of some country in exchange for a large share of the money. Countries and names change, but this scheme has been around since typewriters were invented. People still fall for it.
Invoice or other attachment
Do not open an attachment from an unknown source. You already know the companies that send you invoices. Unknown sources are usually sending viruses. The attachment could open up as a program to install the virus.
Employment, easy cash, dating, porn, pharmaceuticals, urgent
For these subjects and many others that are dreamed up every day, you are asked to click a link for more information or to see a video. Whatever the subject of the unsolicited email, they all want you click a link to load a virus on to your computer or to ask you for your personal details so that your identity can be stolen.
Many of these are legitimate with the link going to the home page of a retail shop. But others will click through to a program that installs a virus on your computer. You should check the address behind the link. E.g. is it from Russia? Does it contain PHP?
EMAILS TO WEBSITE OWNERS:
Domain name registration
You will receive emails saying your domain name will expire unless you pay twice the normal price to renew it. But the email is not from the registrar of your domain name. This is a scam from another company. If you read the email carefully you will see that it is not an invoice but an invitation to either transfer your domain, or to register a different domain that is similar to your own.
Domain Registration Service SEO
A similar email to the above says that if you do not pay them something search engines will not find your domain name. This comes from a variety of addresses like Domain Services, Domain Supports, Domain Registrations, etc. They all ask for your renewal, even though you have never even signed up with them.
Search Engine Optimization
You receive frequent offers to get your website to the top of Google. But many of these are from gmail.com or hotmail.com addresses. They do not even have their own website for you to check how good they are. Where they do have a website, many people have paid monthly fees with no result. We recommend that you take steps to understand what search engines need. Decide what information you should add to your website. Then get a web designer to optimize your website to comply.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Unsolicited mail is a fact of life and has been around since before computers. The Internet has just made it easier and faster to generate. Mail from companies wanting to sell you their products is legitimate.
Use Mail filters
Your email host usually has a mail filter that you can use to discard spam. You can set rules so that all emails containing a particular word or phrase, or from a particular address, or containing a particular subject are discarded.
There are often other options. You can set up another mail box and redirect some suspect mail to that. Then you can check and discard that mail later.
Filters will never capture all unsolicited mail but they will get a lot. You can update the filters with more rules or more words from time to time. E.g. there are many ways to kill a rat.
Use a security program
There are security programs that check incoming mail and disable viruses.
Do not click links that may install viruses on your computer and never give personal identification details to an unknown party.
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