Computer Crime Research Center


Tricks on evading scams

Date: January 12, 2007

The beginning of the new year is the ideal time to make resolutions which should also include your Internet habits. Listed below are a number of suggestions that can help prevent your email address from becoming a target to spammers.

Never respond to spam. If you reply, even to request removing your e-mail address from the mailing list, you are confirming that your e-mail address is valid and the spam has been successfully delivered to your inbox. Lists of confirmed e-mail addresses are more valuable to spammers than unconfirmed lists, and are frequently bought and sold by spammers.

Check to see if your e-mail address is visible to spammers by typing it into a Web search engine. If your e-mail address is posted to any Web sites or newsgroups, remove it if possible to help reduce how much spam you receive.

Disable in-line images, or do not open spam messages. Frequently spam messages include "Web beacons" enabling the spammer to determine how many, or which e-mail addresses have received and opened the message. Most current e-mail programs disable in-line images by default to prevent this from occurring.

Do not click on the links in spam messages, including unsubscribe links. These frequently contain a code that identifies the e-mail address of the recipient, and can confirm the spam has been delivered and that you responded.

When unsubscribing from e-mail, the main rule to follow is: if you didn’t originally opt-in to receive it, or if you don’t recognise the sender / company sending the e-mail, then don’t unsubscribe. Trying to unsubscribe from one e-mail can start a flood of mail from other sources, so if you are unsure, it is best not to unsubscribe and block the mail another way. When unsubscribing from mail always check that the links in the e-mail go to the correct company Web site and not a Phishing site.

When filling in Web forms, check the site’s privacy policy to ensure it will not be sold or passed on to other companies. There may be a checkbox to opt out of third party mailings.

Do not respond to e-mail requests to validate or confirm any of your account details. Your bank, credit card company etc. already have your account details, and would not need you to validate them. If you are unsure if a request for personal information from a company is legitimate, contact the company directly or type the Web site URL directly into your browser. Do not click on the links in the e-mail, as they may be fake links to phishing Web sites.

If you have an e-mail address that receives a large amount of spam, consider replacing it with a new address and informing your contacts of the new address. Once you are on lots of spammers’ mailing lists, it is likely that the address will receive more and more spam.
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