Spam has become a global infestation that no one likes except shady advertisers and cyber criminals.
So why does my email box have a growing rat infestation? The answers are both simple and counter-intuitive to the way we usually think. Many of us likely unwittingly adding to the problem because we don’t think like a criminal. This article provides concise answers you can employ to much better tame the rats at the doorway of your internet connection
We’ll discuss this in two sections:
- How to stop thinking like a potential victim of internet fraud
- 5 things you can do to keep most the rats out of your computer and life
1. How to stop thinking like a potential victim of internet fraud
The first rule of a criminal who wants into your life is to get you engaged in something—anything, good or bad, controversial, emotional, or just to get you talking, clicking or engaged in any way. The longer they can keep you engaged, the higher the likelihood they can pick your pocket, or get information they want. Clicking a link, post a comment, open an email or attachment from someone you don’t know, you get the picture.
2. Top 5 things you can do to keep most of the rats out of your computer and life
- Never “Opt out” or “unsubscribe” of an unsolicited email.
That seems counter-intuitive. This is probably the most successful trick cyber criminals use. Why? Because clicking that link verifies that your email address is a working one and has a human using it. Then they take that email and sell it to more unscrupulous people and your one rat visitor becomes dozens, or hundreds. Unsubscribing from all those pesky unwanted emails can cause thousands more to come. Think: How can I “Unsubscribe” from emails I never subscribed to in the first place? That’s the trick: To get you engaged in something. Then the onslaught comes because you’re opting out says: “patsy here” to them.
- If your email software has the feature, take the time to mark unsolicited emails as spam.
Yes, it’s a bothersome diversion from what we’re doing at the time, but it works. Many email systems “learn” from what is marked as spam and get better and better at helping you brush away the riff-Raff so they bother you less and less.
- Consider seriously getting rid of your old, insecure email address.
Yahoo, Hotmail, sbcglobal, Comcast, Juno, AOL and other antiquated email systems were made when the internet was younger and there were less cyber-threats. Two serious reasons to consider doing this are #1-Those providers are infested themselves with junk mail because their systems are out of date and are routinely in the news for password theft. They are breeding grounds for criminals to prey on the innocent and uneducated. #2-Those email systems themselves can be a shady cousin of the cyber-criminals – Why do they give you an email address for free? So they can pump advertisements at you. That’s how they get their money. We may already know that. But we likely don’t know that those ads are provided by third parties that in some cases are questionable or criminal themselves. I was asked by one fortune 500 company to embed scripts into ads to snag email addresses so they could send advertisements to them. I refused. But I do know that can be done, and is being done. One email service that does quite well with screening junk mail out is Google / Gmail. That takes us to #4:
- Clicking on banner ads, cute puppies and ads disguised as news.
That banner ad has all sorts of programming scripts behind it intended to get as much information as possible from your one click. Granted, some ads are worth clicking. However, does that cute puppy picture have a seedy person behind it waiting for you to click? Fake news banners are also designed to pull you away from what you’re doing: “come over here“, said the pick-pocket. Consider the ad on the right, taken from the CBS News website in May of 2017. the top one has been in use for many months because it works and the advertiser pays. The bottom ad is more disguised as news. The statement “Read what Everyone is Saying About this Razor” is really saying “Here’s What This Advertiser is Saying About this Razor” These are the less dubious ads, but they still lure you with what is not really news at all. This is fake news. Someone’s getting paid for you to click it because they want you to buy the razor. Taboola, the advertising agency that leverages these ads has refined this to an art form using A/B testing for years. They know what works. The criminals that use less legitimate methods know too. They’re the ones connected to organized crime you hear about in the news. Those are the clicks that lead to malware, ransomware, and email hijacking that sends out fake emails from your account to all your contacts.
- Consider getting popup blockers for your browser.
Popups can be an ingenious, and ruthless method to get into your computers. It’s like the shell game at the carnival. While you’re looking at one shell, the nut has already been removed from the table and you’ve already lost your dollar. Popup blockers help you not be the “nut” and to not play the game. It prevents secondary scripts from loading that hack into your computer, email, install password stealers, hijack your email. Do a search on Google for your browser and plugin, like such: Firefox plugin “popup blocker”
In summary, today’s digital world offers marvelous opportunities to connect with the people we care about, and learn of products and services we would never have known of before. Protecting ourselves along the way is key to getting the most out of the benefits, while avoiding the rats.