One of the most irritating things about conducting business online is the phenomenon known as spam. Spam is the term used to describe unsolicited bulk or commercial e-mail, i.e. e-mail that you did not ask for.
Spam is sent for a variety of reasons, including:
- Marketing - many companies obtain lists of potential customers and start sending unwanted advertising.
- Fraud - this includes attempts to elicit money sensitive login information (e.g.: e-mail or banking credentials).
- Malice - some spammers want to infect computers with malicious software or to simply clog up your inbox.
How could anyone obtain my e-mail address?
Because a large amount of business takes place online, most (if not all) companies require that you supply a valid e-mail address when you sign up for their services. Application forms usually contain one or two clauses around the sending of marketing information. The first is whether you wish to receive advertisements or newsletters. The second involves the sharing of your contact information with any entities that the company is associated with (this typically applies to subsidiary companies).
If the company that you are signing up with is reputable, then it will adhere to the choice you make regarding mail and the sharing of your contact details. Even if you have opted to allow both, you should only receive mail from the company and its partners. However, this is not always in line with what actually happens and many people often find themselves on the receiving end of a lot of junk mail. This is a particular problem if your e-mail address is used for business since you may end up wasting having to sort through your mail every day.
You can avoid this scenario by using a private e-mail address instead of your business address. This is particularly useful when signing up for online chat pages and the like as any spam which may sent due to your e-mail address being shared, will not be sent to your business address.
How do I know whether a message is spam?
When you encounter a message that you think may be spam, you should check whether it is correspondence that you would normally expect. For example: If you receive an e-mail stating that you have won the Euro Millions and yet you have never bought a ticket, then what you have received is a form of spam (in this case, an attempt to elicit your banking details). Another example is obvious marketing (i.e. advertisements) for which you did not subscribe.
Ultimately, you will need to scrutinise both the sender as well as the content. If you do not know the person who sent the e-mail; do not recognise the e-mail address or did not subscribe to the newsletter or advertisement contained therein, then the message is probably spam. If you have not entered any competitions or do not have services with the sender, then not only may you be viewing spam, but it may also an attempt to obtain sensitive information or money.
Some messages will give you the option to opt out of future correspondence by including a link to unsubscribe; however, others will not in which case the only course of action may be to block the sender or filter certain key phrases. A guide to creating e-mail filters is available here.
Note: Occasionally you may receive a notice concerning a domain or e-mail account which you have registered with SA Domain. If you are unsure whether the notice is legitimate, please forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org before taking any action.