Spam: How it Happens.

What is spam?

Spam is the name given to any email sent to you that you didn’t want. Typically, it’s the email equivalent of telemarketers – trying to sell you something you probably don’t want or need. Worse than that, spam can also contain computer viruses that can do severe damage to your computer’s operating system.

What is phishing?

Phishing (pronounced “fishing”) refers to fraudulent communications designed to deceive consumers into divulging personal, financial, or account information, including account user name and password, credit card information, and social security number. E-mail is most commonly used for phishing due to its low cost, greater anonymity for the sender, the ability to reach a large target group instantly, and the potential to solicit an immediate response. However, fraudsters have also used online pop-up windows, direct mail and phone calls.

Phishing e-mails often appear to come from legitimate financial institutions, insurance companies or retailers. Techniques such as a false “from” address, the use of seemingly authentic logos from financial institutions, or Web links and graphics may be used to mislead consumers into believing that they are dealing with a legitimate request for personal information. These fraudulent e-mails often create a false sense of urgency intended to provoke the recipient to take immediate action; for example, phishing e-mails frequently instruct recipients to “validate” or “update” account information or face cancellation.

Why do spammers send spam?

Spammers (the name given to people who send spam) send spam in order to build up clientele for the businesses they represent. Just like telephone numbers, huge lists of email addresses are compiled and sold to companies to bombard unsuspecting Internet users with thousands of useless email offers.

Are Dial-Up users safer than Broadband users?

Nope. Spammers don’t care what you’re using to connect to the Internet as long as you’re downloading email.

How can I protect myself?

First, if you buy online, be careful from where you buy stuff. Companies like Amazon,, and other MAJOR retailers are very careful and probably won’t send you spam. Shadier companies are far more tricky to deal with. If the company doesn’t have a brand name (or a public information-sharing agreement like Computer Mechanix’s), chances are they’ll send you spam.

Second, be careful if you’re an eBay user or write to the newsgroups. To protect yourself, get a free email account from Yahoo or Hotmail and use it when writing to newsgroups or selling on eBay. Spammers will scour the newsgroups and eBay sales pages for viable email addresses.

Third, never ever click on the “Take me off your list” link that you can find at the bottom of most spam. This tells the spammers that there is a real person at your email address and you actually read your email. The links only work from reputable companies where you may have signed up for their email list. If they’re trying to sell you prescription drugs for less, chances are they’ll take your email address and give it to all their buddies so they can spam you, too.

Fourth, if you’re like the majority of computer users out there, you’ve already got spam bombarding your email account on a daily, hourly, or minute-by-minute basis. It’s way too late for any of the above techniques (though it doesn’t hurt to employ them now). Fortunately, companies have made anti-spam software that effectively removes spam from your inbox and moves it to a folder where you can delete it without looking at it. Computer Mechanix can easily install our preferred anti-spam software package on your computer for a competitive rate. Simply call us at 828-281-4379 or make an appointment online.

By Eric Jacobson

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