It is common place today for us all to receive unsolicited or undesirable email (otherwise known as spam). Email campaigns that offer fantastic deals and discounts, genuine retailers trying to tempt us to generate their online sales targets. This is great as we can genuinely snip a bargain.

This dynamic method of communicating means that “offers” can be targeted based on our purchase history and the preferences we may have shared with the retailer. We all love a bargain, so thank you to our fabulous retailers!

Welcome to the dark side

There is also a dark side to some email that arrives in our inboxes. Cybercriminals also know that we get excited by deals and discounts too and that we also might need to maintain our online payment methods… using this knowledge in an attempt to scam us. Most of us generally think of this as spam, we mark it as spam and then delete it, but sometimes it is difficult to identify real emails from fake ones.

How do I identify spam from genuine email?

A few clear markers should help you identify if the mail is spam or not:

Have I recently interacted with the website?

Close the email and log into the website directly to check for updates. No updates? This is more than likely spam, simply mark the email as spam and then delete it from the spam folder immediately.

Do you recognise the senders email?

Like us many genuine companies send out a periodical newsletter, you can safely add us to your address book. If you do not recognise the senders email, proceed with caution. Check that Paypal (or whoever) may have just credited you thousands of pounds by closing the email and logging into the organisation directly.

Most banks, financial institutions and large retailers have a small padlock displayed in the website URL at the top of your screen. This indicates an SSL security certificate is in place to help protect your data. If you are satisfied you are on the correct website, log in and confirm any suspicions. Should the email be fake, forward the email to the organisations spoof email / phishing department (most large organisations have them now).

Other than that, mark it as spam and then delete it immediately. Do not open it and definitely do not click on any credit notes, invoices or suspicious attachments!

What can I expect to find once I have clicked on the email attachment?

The attachment generally contains, self unzipping software (malware), that will basically start gnawing away at your personal content, passwords, saved data, the list go’s on… In some instances, lethal injections into your hardware can hold your personal details to ransom. Let’s not go there right?

What if I have already clicked on an attachment?

As with our website security advice (The 365 Plan), we suggest running an antivirus software solution to combat threats. If you do not currently have antivirus software, a good starting place would be AVG. Of course there are several other great antivirus software solutions available, but in the many years of having used AVG, we have never encountered an issue on our own desktop devices. If the malware is known to them, the security software traces the problem then offers to quarantine the threat, leading to it’s destruction.

It’s also noteworthy that once your security software is installed, ensure that you continue to update the security software regularly as out of date software is a vulnerability in itself. But thats another story.

The damage is done, it’s not too late

As always, if the virus has manifested itself already, you are most likely already being scammed (phished), the only solution would be to change all secure passwords on a known safe device or directly with the companies involved and seek professional assistance. I hope these tips have helped you check before you click. Stay secure and browse safely.