Spam or Not Spam? How to Protect Your PII
Written by Kayla Benson • Posted on Aug 03, 2016
Is your inbox flooded with “You’re the Big Winner!!” and “Click Here to Redeem Your Prize!!”? These messages are most likely a phishing or scam attempt and pose a great threat to the security of your personally identifiable information (PII). Phishing emails aim to obtain credit card, credentials, or private identification information through illegitimate means. Here are our tips on how to protect yourself by removing and blocking those pesky spam emails.
Identifying Spam Emails
1. Sensationalized Headline
Everyone wants to be a big winner, but unless you specifically signed up for a contest, the sad news is you are being targeted by a scam. Spammers use subject lines that strike intrigue, spark questions or other emotions to trick you into opening the message and following instructions. If the email says anything along the lines of “One Last Step to Claim Your Big Prize,” it is best to delete this spam email immediately before it escalates to identity theft.
2. Unknown Sender
Another tell-tale sign an email is fake or a phishing attempt is who sent the message. Spammers often use very generic or spoofed email addresses to simulate a well-known or trusted brand. Look for strange symbols, misspelled words or the use of numbers as letters, such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
3. Requests Personal Information
Most importantly, legitimate businesses will never ask you to send personal information via email, as it is unsecure and can easily be hacked (unless you are using an encrypted email service, such as military or a medical institution internal server). Main point, do not submit any identification, credit or banking information in response to these too-good-to-be-true offers. An honest bank, store and other service provider will call or speak with you in person to update information and account details.
4. Trust Your Instinct
If anything seems strange or just off, it is likely a scam, spam, or phishing attempt. Don't talk yourself into trusting a source your gut is telling you to ignore.
Cleaning Your Inbox
Almost all major email servers have the same process for marking messages as spam. Follow these guidelines below:
1. Without opening the message, use the checkbox on the left side of the email subject line to select the email. (Although it is best to avoid opening these emails, if you are already viewing the message, all of these options are still located on the top portion of the page and will respond the same.)
2. Click the 'Spam' button located on the top left of the inbox.
- Gmail’s spam button looks like a stop sign with an exclamation mark inside.
- Yahoo!’s button looks like a shield with an ‘x’ inside.
- AOL’s button looks like a prohibited circle.
- MSN or Hotmail's button is labeled ‘Junk.’
By doing this, your email server will block the sender and all future emails from this address with be forwarded to the Spam or Junk folder. Those emails can easily be deleted all at once by selecting 'Empty' or 'Delete All.'
Goodbye, spam, and hello, clean inbox!