Blog > How To Identify Web Spam And Protect Your Site
Posted By Create
I love the internet. I really do. However there are some people out there who spoil it for the rest of us, namely spammers, scammers and fraudsters. I’d like to talk about fighting back against these internet irritators, who seem to be hitting our inboxes and contact forms more than ever.
What is spam?
The term ‘spam’ usually refers to junk emails. Just as you get junk mail through your letterbox, your email inbox is probably full of junk too.
The term is actually derived from a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch from the 1970s, in which nothing but Spam (the meaty version) can be ordered from a café’s menu. In this sketch, Spam is depicted as ubiquitous and unavoidable, and thus it has become the popular term for junk emails.
Fraudsters and scammers will send you spam emails usually in the bid to get money from you, hack your computer and other such sinister behaviours.
So how can we spot when an email is genuine or not? They don’t make it easy for us, especially when pretending to be large, reputable companies like our bank or insurance provider, so we have outlined our top tips for spotting a spam tactic.
Check Email Addresses
Is there a website address on the email? Is it exactly the same as the website URL of the company the email purports to be from? What might look like a legitimate address is often linked to a third-party site that looks similar and official, but isn’t. Check the address carefully as these are often the result of identity or financial theft.
If the email claims to be from a large company, their address will not be Hotmail, Yahoo or similar. A large company will have an email address @theirdomain.co.uk. Please note that although this can help you rule out a spammer, it doesn’t mean that every company that contacts you from a well-known email provider’s address is spam. So keep checking.
Check The Email Contents
Watch out for hidden hyperlinks to a webpage on suspect emails. Sometimes clicking anywhere on the body of an email can send you to an untrustworthy website without you even knowing. Try not to click anything other than the delete button until you’re sure the email isn't spam.
If you’re not sure about an email’s source and you don’t know the sender personally, never open files attached to the email. Attachments could contain viruses which are harmful to your computer and your online security. If in doubt, just delete the email.
Spammers may be reasonably clever with a computer, but they often lack good English skills. Read the email carefully. If there are multiple spelling, grammar and typographical errors, the odds are that it’s spam.
Some email providers and email clients will automatically scan email attachments for viruses. If your provider or client does not have this already built in, you should be able to scan the attachment from your computer’s antivirus solution. Even so, you should still only ever open attachments that you trust.
Filter Out The Email Junk
You should be able to ‘blacklist’ emails from unwanted senders in your email’s settings. This should stop those pesky repeat senders from appearing in your inbox.
Your email provider or email client (such as Outlook or Mail) will almost definitely have email spam/junk filter settings. Utilise these settings to make sure spam mail is not going into your inbox, and conversely, that reliable contacts’ emails are not going in to your junk folder.
Be Careful With Your Details
No respectable or large company will ever email you out of the blue asking for your personal details, and they will certainly never ask you to insecurely send them your bank or credit card details. If you don’t recognise the company, don’t reply. Delete the email. If you do recognise the company, but are wary of the email’s origin, contact them directly from a phone number on their legitimate website.
Don't Fall For The Free Money Trick
If you are offered a large cash prize, told that you have inherited a large estate in a will or asked to invest in something that will return you lots of money... they are probably trying to scam you. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Read the above advice and consider if you really are entitled to a $100,000 American estate from a great great-uncle that you've never heard of.
Junk Mail photograph © Patrick Mackie, via Wikimedia Commons