Does your website contain a contact list of email addresses? If it does, chances are you and your coworkers are probably receiving large amounts of SPAM. What can we do to prevent this unwanted and potentially harmful email?
We generally don’t think of our email addresses as targets, in fact we tend to give them out freely to promote ourselves and our business. But think about it – besides your name, your email address is the most public piece of information you own. It’s also needed to do almost everything on the internet, and without it one would struggle to even survive online. But it’s important to understand the harmful repercussions when mishandling email addresses. In the wrong hands, a stolen email address can be the roadmap into your personal and business livelihood.
Your Email Address Postings Expose Who You Are
If a scammer has your email address, he can put together facts about you. He can find out your name, where you work, your role at work, where your kids go to school, what affiliations you belong to, etc. Basically, any information that is online and contains your email address and a fact about you are puzzle pieces for scammers. An example of this would be your email on your company’s website directory list. A scammer will send phishing emails using this information, along with other facts they uncovered online about you, to “prove” they know you. Eliminate the possibility of giving away sensitive information and it ending up in the wrong hands – don’t post your email address online.
Phishing Emails 2.0
If you do receive a phishing email, you must be ready to recognize it. But did you know that spammers have upped their game with email designs? No more bad graphics or tell-tale fonts. Their phishing emails look absolutely legitimate, as if they came from leading companies like UPS or Pizza Hut. Spammers prey on those of us that click on them because we are conditioned to do this, or we think nothing bad will ever happen to us. And then we get malware.
What we need to look at is the purpose of the email. Here are some questions to ask yourself when examining a possible phishing scam:
- Does the email ask you to put in a user name and password?
- Is this promotion too good to be true?
- Are scare tactics being used?
- Are “actions needed on an account” immediately?
- Is it requesting a payment for an IRS bill?
All of these are signs of phishing scams. So pay close attention; if you fall for these phishing emails, you could be the cause of your own identity theft.
The Face of Your Email Address Says A Lot About You
Email addresses, either personal or business, describes who you are and your characteristics. It often contains your name, your name and a meaningful number, or your name in combination with the company your work for. Each bit of information lets scammers know who you are. From it, they can figure out your passwords, answer security questions, and know your role in your company. These clues also help scammers tailor their phishing emails to your liking, increasing the likelihood of you giving up sensitive information.
Password Resets Through Email Addresses
Think about the times you needed to reset your password, either because it expired or you just forgot it. Now think of how you reset your password – through your email. During password resets, a link is usually sent to your email address for verification purposes. But what if a thief gets ahold of your email account? They can then get ahold of this password reset information as well. Now if you’re doing this for your online banking, it could be a financial disaster. Thankfully, some sites provide the option of resetting via mobile phone. Use this, it’s a more secure and better option.
Email Addresses that Double as a User ID
A lot of websites prompt you to input your email address as a user ID. This is based on the idea that most people don’t want to come up with another user ID for another online business, and so using your email will eliminate that bothersome task. But what’s convenient for people is a magnet for scammers. Email addresses are the first thing they try in the User ID box when attempting to break into your accounts. So, be wary when using email addresses as a User ID. There’s a much greater chance of your accounts being hacked.
It’s important to recognize how in-demand and fragile email addresses really are. Instead of providing your email address on websites, use forms to gain contact information from prospects and inquiries. Protecting your email will save you a lot of grief in the future. So make sure you’re not giving away those puzzle pieces, be proactive and shield yourself from the onslaught of SPAM and malware.