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Common E-mail Mistakes – Part 2

Friday, March 16th, 2007 by | Filed Under: E-Mail Help
 
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Q:
Please fill me in on the rest of the 25 most common mistakes we all make when it comes to e-mail security. I’m dying to know!

A:
As I promised in yesterday’s newsletter, we will go over the remaining 13 mistakes a lot of us make when it comes to our e-mail safety. We’ve already covered 12 of them and they included everything from keeping spam accounts around to forgetting to use the BCC option to not backing up our important e-mails and so on.

So, tell me, how many of those have you done? If it was a lot, don’t feel bad. It happens to all of us at one time or another, but after today, you will know everything you’re not supposed to do when dealing with your e-mail and you’ll be able to correct your mistakes. It’s better late than never, right?! Okay, let’s get started with the top 13, as continued from yesterday. Here we go!

13.) Believing Scam Titles – We’ve all received them before. You know, the e-mails that tell us we’ve won the lottery or that someone wants to send us a bunch of money or maybe even one that told us we won an iPod or a laptop. No matter which way they come through, they are all junk! Don’t ever fall for one of these scams, because I’m here to tell you that they’re just not true. They never were and they never will be. The best thing to do is just delete them from your Inbox as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you’ll fall into the trap and you’ll be the one to lose out in the end. Please trust me on this one!

14.) Falling for the Phish – This is another one that we’ve all probably fallen for before. Even the most experienced e-mail user probably opens up a phishing e-mail from time to time. Whether it’s on purpose or by accident, those e-mails are tempting, but it’s important to see those e-mails for what they really are. Phishers send out these types of fraud e-mails in an attempt to trick you into giving out some of your personal information, etc. This could be anything from your passwords to your bank account information, etc.

Phishing e-mails can come in several different forms as well. Usually, the phishers will steal the logo from a well known company and pass it off for the real thing. Some of the most popular ones are PayPal and different banks. The e-mail will then ask you to click on a link to verify some information and once you do that, you’re done. They will have all of your personal information and you will have a hard time getting things back to normal. So, just be cautious with every e-mail you open. Don’t give your personal details out to anyone. Keeping to yourself in the e-mail world is just the best way to stay safe.

15.) Sending Personal Information – You may have done this before in an e-mail conversation with one of your friends or family members. And while it may seem safe to do that with those people, it’s still not a good idea to send those kinds of details through e-mail. This holds true for any personal information, such as your address, phone number, social security number or any of your usernames and passwords, as well as, any financial information. Also, you should always avoid writing your bank via e-mail. You never know when those e-mails will end up in the wrong hands. It’s best to leave your personal information to a face to face form of contact, instead of through your e-mail program.

16.) Unsubscribing to Nothing – Do you ever receive a newsletter in your e-mail that you never even signed up for? Well, if you have, they are more than likely coming from a spammer. That’s one of the oldest spam tricks in the book. They send you fake newsletters and then provide you with a link that will allow you to unsubscribe if you’d like. If you ever get something like that, don’t ever click on that Unsubscribe button. If you do, you may end up with a whole new load of spam mail the next day. The best thing to do is just block the e-mail address that the newsletters are coming from. That way, you won’t have to deal with them in your e-mail anymore and you will also save yourself from a lot of spam or even a virus.

17.) Trusting Your Friends – Okay, I’m not telling you to not trust your friends, but I am telling you to not always trust the e-mails you get from them. When you get an e-mail from a friend, you probably instantly throw all of your caution instincts out the window. You figure the e-mail is safe to open since it has your friend’s e-mail address right there in front of you. Well, unfortunately, that may not always be the case. Hackers are able to retrieve the information they need to send out e-mails that look like they’re coming from a legit source. If you open an e-mail like this, you may be at risk for a virus or even just a lot of malware. If you get an e-mail from a friend where the subject line seems a little fishy, don’t open it. Scan all of your incoming e-mails very carefully and only open those that you know for sure are safe.

18.) Not Blocking the Spam – When you get spam in your e-mail, do you delete it or do you actually add the address it came from to your blacklist? Well, the best thing to do is add it to your list. If you just delete the spam mail, it will still come back time and time again. But, if you add the e-mail address to your blocked senders list, you will save yourself from receiving any e-mails from that address again. Now, a lot of the spam e-mails that circulate around do not come from the same users, but a lot of it does. So, if you hit that Block button each time you get a new piece of spam, you will be putting a stop to a lot of the spam you receive.

19.) Disabling the Filter – If you’re just starting out with a new e-mail account, you may not give a lot of value to the spam filter each e-mail client provides. Yes, it can be a little frustrating when the filter blocks an e-mail that should have gone through to your Inbox, but in the end, it’s really doing you a favor. This is especially true for older e-mail accounts that have had the chance to accumulate a lot of spam mail. The best thing to do is whitelist all of your friends and family members. That way, those e-mail addresses won’t get caught up in the spam filter and you’ll be able to read all of the wanted e-mail you get, while the unwanted stuff stays where it belongs. In the trash!

20.) Not Scanning Attachments – Do you receive a lot of attachments with the e-mails you get? If so, did you know that attachments are very likely to carry viruses? If you didn’t know, you do now and it’s time you do something about it. It’s very important that you scan all attachments before you open them. A lot of e-mail clients have a built in scanner and they will take care of it as your e-mail comes in. If that’s the case, you won’t even have to worry about your attachments, because they will have already been checked for you. If your e-mail doesn’t have a scanner, you may want to think about switching e-mail clients. Either do that or you may have to pay for a scanner of your own. (Just FYI, most free e-mail programs have the scanner option, including Yahoo! and Gmail). So, it may be worth opening up a free account, don’t you think? After all, it is your computer’s safety!

21.) Sharing Your Information – Have you ever been in a jam and you needed to check your e-mail right away? It’s happened to all of us at one time or another, but when it happens to you, what do you do? Do you call up your closest friend or a co-worker and ask them to check it for you? If so, that’s a big no no! Of course, you probably call someone you trust, but either way, once you give out that password, your e-mail account is no longer as safe as it was. This is especially true if the person checking your e-mail doesn’t use the same security measures as you. If they’re checking it on another computer, you know it’s probably not as safe as yours. Also, if you happen to write down your account information, make sure it is destroyed after it’s used. You don’t want just anyone finding it and accessing your information. But, the best thing to do is just keep it all to yourself. You can check your e-mail at your earliest convenience. It’s not going to be the end of the world!

22.) Using the Wrong Passwords – What type of password do you have for your e-mail account? Hopefully it’s not your name or some other easy to guess word. If you use a simple password, hackers will be able to crack it in a matter of seconds. Once they do, you know what happens. Yep, you will start to get piles and piles of spam e-mail. So, if you’re trying to think of a good password to use or if you need to change yours after reading this tip, follow these suggestions. A good, strong password should have at least eight characters and it should be as meaningless to you as possible. It’s also a good idea to use both small and capital letters when typing it out. If you do all of that, hackers will have a hard time figuring out your password and that means less spam!

23.) Forgetting to Encrypt – Do you encrypt your e-mails? If not, you should seriously think about starting to do so. If you do this, it will make it extremely hard for anyone who may be watching your computer to understand what you’re saying. This will then make it difficult for them to get any of your information, etc. If you don’t already have an encryption program installed on your computer, you may want to check out PGP. It is one of the most popular e-mail encryption programs. Now, it may not be completely realistic to encrypt every single one of your e-mails, but it’s smart to at least do it for any that contain sensitive information. Remember, it’s for your own security!

24.) Not Encrypting Your Wireless – This one goes along with number 23, but it has to do with encrypting your wireless Internet connection. Above, I told you to encrypt your e-mail messages, but if you start with your wireless connection, you won’t even have to worry about hackers getting into your e-mail account in the first place. It only takes a few minutes to encrypt your wireless, so it’s definitely worth the time. The most common encryption standard for wireless is WPA2 and you can find information about getting that done by doing a search for it with your favorite search engine.

25.) Not Using Digital Signatures – We’re almost done now! If you didn’t know, you can now use digital signatures at the end of your e-mails. Digital signatures will help to prove where certain e-mails come from and who they’re sent by. They also make it a lot harder for anyone to modify your signature and change all of your information around. It’s very important to use this type of signature when sending out sensitive e-mails. It will keep both you and the receiver as safe as possible. You can find information about getting your own digital signature by searching for the term with any search engine.

So, there you have it. The 25 most common e-mail mistakes. We’ve all done them and if we haven’t, we probably will. In today’s world, it’s hard not to make some safety mistakes when dealing with your e-mail, but at least you now know some things you can do to combat any insecurity. I hope this tip will help to keep all of you just a little bit safer in the e-mail world!

~ Erin

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