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Friday, October 31, 2014

How do I know that email sent to me is safe?

Have you ever gotten an email message that looked exactly like it came from your bank or eBay asking you to click on something? Often it is written in a way that makes you think it is an urgent problem. DON'T click. These messages are called "phishing". They are sent out fraudulently to learn information from you. They are NOT sent from your bank or eBay. If you click on the link you may be allowing a virus to have access to your computer. These messages also sometimes ask for private information (like bank account numbers).  

One common problem is that some virus steals all of the email addresses in your friend's contacts. The virus then sends a message to ALL of those people (including you) with a link to click on. It may say that it is from your best friend. It might say something generic in the subject line like "this is funny" or "you will like this". Even the URL may look innocent. Any mail that comes from your friend with only a link do not click on it is probably a scam. 

How can you be sure that it is not really your bank? 
Here are some steps to take that will protect you from accidentally giving away information or access to your computer.

1.  Read ALL email skeptically. Even if it says it is from your friend do not assume it is valid if it seems suspicious. Do NOT automatically, without thinking, click on anything.

2. Before you click call your friend, the airline, your bank or whoever it says it is from to be sure it is authentic. 

3.  Know that companies and banks are aware of these problems and will never ask for personnel information through email. Most of them have links on their websites where you can report any phishing attacks you have received.

4.  You can usually run your mouse over a link or an email address and in the bottom left hand corner of the screen a box will appear that shows what code is underneath the words you are seeing. The code should match the words you see if it is legitimate.

5. Look at the email address it was sent from. Often the email address is very close to the one that the company uses, but not quite the same. For example it might say that it is from which would lead you to think it is from American Airlines, but their address is 

Most email is legitimate. It is a good way to communicate, but it is wise to be skeptical. Don't let someone who is phishing catch you!

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