I hate to be so distrusting, but spam is definitely getting smarter, and one can never be too careful. Spammers call us, email us, and send us mail. What should you look for in your inboxes and mailboxes (and on the phone) and how can you help prevent getting conned or spammed? Let’s see if I can shed some light on it for you based on my experiences.
When I got my first email address, I found it fairly easy to tell the difference between a spammer and a legitimate person. Usually, the subject line was blatantly obvious, like “Enlarge Your Penis in 7 Days” or something like that, and the message was ridiculously simple to spot and delete. However, it’s much harder to catch junk mail and spam these days because the messages are often cleverly disguised. For example, even though Google’s Gmail service is amazing for spam filtering, a junk message will still slip through the cracks and into my inbox on occasion. Last week, I had an email in my box from a normal-sounding name, like “Rob Martin”, and the subject line just said “RE:”. Because I have been emailing vendors left and right for my wedding next year, this email made me stop and think. Could this Rob Martin person be replying to an inquiry I made? That could be legitimate, right? WRONG. I realized my error after opening the message and reading the body of the email, but if I hadn’t, I could have clicked a link that may have caused damage to my computer. BASTARDS!
Similarly, bulk mail spam has become a more frequent visitor in my regular mailbox than ever before. I can’t even tell you how many times I get flyers from businesses that appear to be real and turn out to be fake. If I open the mail and it seems too good to be true, then it is. Oh, I’ve been entered in a drawing to win a fabulous prize? Awesome! All I have to do is go on this website and enter my personal information? Sure, I’ll get right on that…after I file it next to the rest of the items in my recycling bin.
If you don’t have Caller ID or a similar function, then get it. My rule is that I never answer the phone if I get a call from a number I don’t recognize. If the person is legit, then they’ll probably leave a message telling me who they are and why they’re calling, and then I have the choice to call them back. I understand that not everyone can choose to let calls go to voicemail, especially if the calls are coming to a business. So, when you take a call from someone you don’t know and they tell you they need to “verify” something, let that word send up a red flag in your mind. Many phone scammers pretend to be from a big company like AT&T or Bank of America, taking the chance that the person they’re calling actually corresponds with that company, and then they try to get your personal information for their own gain. When someone needs to “verify” your account number, social security number, mother’s maiden name, or ANYTHING remotely confidential over the phone, the rule is simple: DON’T GIVE IT OUT! Hang up, find the actual number for the company they said they were with (not the one on your Caller ID), and ask them if they legitimately need your information verified (it’s 99.9% likely that they don’t). Then, you may or may not decide to call your local non-emergency police number and let them know that you received a phony call from the number on your Caller ID.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do to eliminate spam from our inboxes and mailboxes, but we can arm ourselves with plenty of common sense and skepticism. I like to think of myself as a good person, so some of the scams that people come up with would never have crossed my mind. Whatever you do, don’t have the thought that “no one would go through the trouble of making something up just to scam you”. There are a lot of malicious and manipulative people out there who go through a lot of trouble to cook up these cons, so here’s a good rule of thumb: “If you don’t PERSONALLY know the person who is emailing you, mailing you, calling you, requesting to be your friend on Facebook, or whatever the case may be, then USE CAUTION!” It doesn’t take a lot of effort to stop and think about it, and that effort could save you a lot of money and a hassle in the long run.
Basically, your safety from fake marketing attempts and scams all depends on your common sense and best judgment. If someone is trying to reach you by phone, email, or mail and requesting your information for a great deal or for verification, then you should be skeptical…very skeptical. Keep in mind that most companies will never call you to verify anything, because they should already have your information if you’re doing business with them. If you receive an email from a company you know and trust, then make sure the website that’s given matches the company’s actual website. It’s common for phishing scams (a.k.a. scams that attempt to get your personal information, usually bank account numbers and social security numbers) to provide a link that appears to be legitimate and then actually re-routes to a scam site. Whenever I’m in doubt, I Google the company’s name along with the word “scam” or “fraud”, and I’ve been able to find past reports of suspicious activity.
Use your head and shut these spammers down! Any questions or comments? I’d love to hear them. Thank you for reading the Quality Logo Products® blog!