To a great extent today e-mail messages have replaced letters, providing an almost instantaneous way to stay in touch, conduct business, and exchange documents.
However, e-mail carries certain risks that you should be aware of. These typically fall into three categories:
- An e-mail may contain links or files that, if opened, can place malicious code onto your computer — or cell phone.
- Spam is generally e-mail advertising for some product that arrives unsolicited from somebody you don’t know.
- Spam becomes a scam when criminals use the e-mail to commit fraud. It may be a financial scam (called phishing) where they make the e-mail look like an official notice of some kind to lure you into revealing financial information that they can use to steal your money or identity. Or it may be to get you to click on a link to place malicious code on your computer to steal all your information. These scams come in several varieties, but they share certain characteristics that we explore in this chapter.
Luckily you can use safe e-mailing practices, filters, and your smarts to avoid spam and malware, and spot common scam characteristics so you can avoid becoming a victim. In this chapter, you discover how to e-mail . . . and do so safely.