Blog > What are spam emails and how to prevent them
Posted By Create
Spam is a type of email that generally contains unsolicited advertising or information and can sometimes contain links that, when opened, could damage your computer system. Just as you get junk mail through your letterbox, your email inbox is probably receiving junk too.
The team here at Create are constantly working on ways to try and prevent spam from getting to your contact forms and guestbook. Unfortunately, as hard as our team work to stop it coming through, other people are constantly working on new ways to get the spam to you, making it very difficult to negate all spam coming through.
Usually, fraudsters and scammers send spam emails in a bid to get money from you, hack your computer or other such sinister behaviours.
So, what can be done to stop Spam from reaching you? Or, how can we spot when an email is genuine or not? We’ve put together some tips, as well as some information on what big companies are doing to try and stop Spam from getting through to you.
Implementing Google Recaptcha
ReCaptcha is a free service created and maintained by Google which anyone can easily add to their website forms. A “Captcha” is a quick test which is designed to tell humans and bots apart, so a real message will get through to you and fake messages won’t. ReCaptcha is integrated into the Create tools, so you can easily activate it anywhere you have a form on your website.
You might think this will stop the spam messages, but unfortunately as fast as Google are working on improving these tests, the more sophisticated spammers and the computer systems they use become. Over the last few years, image recognition has become very advanced, and AI is being used to the spammers - allowing them to behave like a human using the form. While automated image recognition is great if you want to find all the photos of your daughter on your iPhone. It’s not so great for stopping spammers knowing which photos on your form reCaptcha are trees or the number 19!
Since last year you may have noticed that ReCaptcha isn’t appearing quite so much on the web. If you’ve signed up for a Google account and browse the web logged in, Google now use this information to know that you’re not a bot. So unless you look suspicious you’ll rarely see the test anymore! Whilst this has made life easier for the majority of people using the internet as a website owner you probably haven’t noticed a reduction in spam. In fact, over the year it’s probably got worse as spammers continue to get cleverer.
We’ve seen the spam we receive increase and it’s unlikely to change. We’re sad to say that our advice is to chant the mantra DELETE DELETE DELETE and not to click the links!
Don’t have ReCaptcha turned on for your Custom Forms? Here’s how to do it on your Create site.
With many email clients, you get access to their inbuilt email filters. Utilising these is a great way to make sure content that you don’t want never touches your inbox.
One of the simplest ways to do this is just by setting up rules in your email account that filter your emails into different folders - if there is a certain email address or domain name that is constantly emailing you and you want to direct them straight into a folder of their own so they’re easier to delete, you can do exactly that.
Don’t forget to report the messages as spam/junk when you receive them as this helps your email service to build a picture of current spam and improve their filters accordingly.
If you’re not sure if you have filters turned on in your own email provider, or want to set some up for yourself, you can have a look at the below support documents from some of the most popular email providers to help you out:
How to Tell If An Email Is Spam
Spam and Phishing is now so widespread that many big companies (in particular financial organisations) have set up specific teams and processes for reporting fraudulent and phishing activity. If you get a message and you’re not sure, report it to them and ask for help.
There are several different ways you can check yourself to see if an email is actually spam or not - below are some ways for you to tell the difference between real and fake!
Who actually sent the email?
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? Spammers often buy domain names which look similar or contain the company name in them so as to confuse you. What might look like a legitimate address is often linked to a third-party site that looks similar and official, but isn’t.
Fraudsters also spoof email addresses, so it can look like it’s actually the right email but it’s actually come from somewhere else. 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 Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or similar. A large company will have an email address @ourdomain.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.
Be Careful With Your Personal 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. It’s always better to be safe!
Check The Email Contents
Watch out for hidden links to any type of page on suspect emails or posts. 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. Emails with invoices and parcel delivery details attached seem to be on the increase. Attachments (even PDF’s) could contain viruses which are harmful to your computer and your online security. If in doubt, just delete the email.
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.
Often spam emails contain spelling, grammar and typographical errors, you might think this is because they aren’t very clever or because they don’t have a good grasp of English language. But actually, it’s because they’re trying to target people who are more likely to be taken in by the scams. Terrible English works when they’re pertaining to be a Nigerian prince, but when it’s an email from PayPal it’s an easy indicator for you to know that the message isn’t real.
How Do You Check Links?
If an email feels off, the best thing to do is not click the links at all but there is a way for you to check on the links without actually having to click on them.
If you’re using a computer or laptop, hover your mouse over a link without clicking and you should see a little preview of the URL either at the bottom of your browser or just next to your cursor. If you don’t recognise the website the link is trying to send you to, you can just slide your mouse all the way over to the delete button.
On mobile devices and tablets, it varies depending on the software are device you are using. Generally, if you lightly press and hold a link then it should give you a preview of the URL and the option to either Open or Cancel what you’re doing.
If you have an Apple device with 3D Touch, then be careful not to press too hard as that can open the link for you straight away!
Have a search online for how to preview links in emails on your device, learning how to do this quick check on your phone or tablet could save a bunch of time and worry.
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 oodles 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???
What If You Need What They’re Offering?
Even if you see an email that you’re unsure about, and actually need the product or service they’re offering - still be careful! It’s highly unlikely that someone is going to be getting in touch with exactly what you’ve been looking for (unless you’ve not signed up for a newsletter from a specific company).
Delete the Spam, and make a note to go and buy the product from a genuine company directly without clicking on the email.
Did you find these tips useful? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and if you have any questions at all, you can always get in touch!