Emails can be a lot like the internet’s version of a greeting card. They’re an easy way to say hello, catch up with an old friend, acknowledge a birthday, remind someone of an appointment, and so on. And of course, email can be used for more serious purposes, like conducting business or communicating with a long-distance love interest.
Unfortunately, email can also be used to wreak havoc on your life and it has become an every day occurrence for hackers so we all need to be constantly vigilant when opening any email that we receive.
Hackers might be unscrupulous, but they’re not dumb! They know full well that you aren’t going to open an email that says “Hacker”, “Con Artist” or “Cyber Criminal” in the “from” field. No, they’re smart enough to create emails that appear to be coming from legitimate businesses. Here are just a few examples:
- You receive an email that appears to be from Walmart, instructing you to pick up a package at your local store
- An email, seemingly from Amazon, informs you to click a link in order to claim your “Free 200-dollar gift card”
- Your bank seems to be emailing you with a concern about your account
- Fed-Ex appears to be notifying you of a shipping delay
We could go on, but you get the point. These emails appear to be from legitimate businesses. But when you click the link included in the email, malware is installed in your computer.
So, how can you tell if an email is legit?
Check the email address. The “from” or “sender” field might say “Walmart”, but the address itself says something like email@example.com or even just a bunch of nonsense, like firstname.lastname@example.org. Be on guard against the tricky ones, in which the hacker changes just a character or two, to make the address appear legitimate. For example, email@example.com… See the spelling error?
Hover over the link included in the email. When you hover your cursor on a link in an email, the actual web address will usually pop up, allowing you to see where the link leads without actually having to click it. If the link pops up as www.Walmart.com or www.Amazon.com (a real web address), then you’re probably safe to follow it. Hackers create very realistic websites, but they can’t take the actual web address. So a fake web address will look like a bunch of nonsense, or it might be slightly different from the real address (www.FedEx.net, for example). Either way, don’t follow suspicious links.
When in doubt, DON’T CLICK! Even if the email appears to come from someone you know, if you aren’t sure, it’s better to contact that person before you click the link in the email.
Following these tips can prevent you from clicking on bad links, in the majority of cases. But of course, up-to-date anti-virus software and a secure firewall are important, too. For information on keeping your computer and network safe, give us a call at 888-RING-MY-TECH.