Fraud Watch | Elliott Greenblott: Stopping the junky emails – Brattleboro Reformer

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Updated: September 20, 2022 @ 11:54 am

Sadly, junk email and text messages are now parts of everyday life. A recent email received from a reader of the Berkshire Eagle asks, “I’m wondering why I keep getting so much junk mail when I don’t do much on the computer at all. I email a few friends and order a few things. I don’t complete warranties or fill out surveys except at the doctor’s office. Any suggestions? I have Bit Defender.”
Much of the junk is not criminal activity but is a part of aggressive marketing from our internet providers and online search engines. Companies like Verizon, Consolidated, Comcast, and Spectrum share information with their affiliates. Google, Twitter, and Facebook are notorious for sharing data with advertisers and even selling contact information. Free services have to make money somewhere, and it’s not by charging us fees. I often comment, “If you are accessing the service free of charge, you are not the consumer; you are the product.”
If it comes from a legitimate company, they usually include a link to “Unsubscribe,” which is only safe if you are positive that the company is not fake or an imposter. Positive verification is relatively easy. With a website, the URL (address) of the website should display the name of the company, spelled correctly, with “.com” immediately after the name. Scammers use misspelled names or include a real company name somewhere in the address to fool you.
If you can’t verify the legitimacy of the sender, do not click unsubscribe. That lets the sender know that you are a real person and sets you up to receive more junk. The simple act of clicking a link can provide information to the website creator, such as your location, type of computer being used, identification of the web browser being used, the type of computer operating system, and even identify your specific computer address. Also, resist the temptation to download documents unless you absolutely know the sender.
Notify your internet service provider of junk messages and ask them how you can filter them out. In many cases, they can filter out or at least prescreen malicious websites or emails and alert you.
If you are receiving junk from the same sender, you can adjust the settings or preferences of your email program and create a rule that moves any message coming from this name or address to trash. This will not stop the messages, but it will move them to the trash when they arrive, so you will not see them in your inbox. I do not use a PC or Outlook, but if your email address is Microsoft (@msn.com), the software offers filtering to deal with unwanted email, as does practically all email software. But, email software features are not the same as all programs. Apple is very good and helpful if you are using Apple Mail. Other computer companies will refer you to a specific software provider, so if you use Microsoft Outlook, you will need to contact customer service at Microsoft. Another source of help is to contact the place where you purchased the computer.
Malware and virus protection programs like BitDefender deal with malware and viruses; they do not deal with junk email or deceptive websites. Regardless of the computer operating system, Apple, Chrome, or Windows, you do need to keep the protection software subscription up to date in order to protect from newly developed malware (Note: Apple devices are not immune). Often, we become willing accomplices to the criminals or victims of aggressive and deceptive marketing. Here is where human nature kicks in. Offers of expensive prizes for simply completing a survey, high return investments, emotional appeals, extreme scarcity, authority/credibility, or situations of urgency break down our defenses and that opens us up to victimization. Regardless of the message, particularly when it comes from a stranger, step back and think. Let logic and reason guide your actions online.
{span}Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. Questions, concerns? Contact {/span}egreenblott@aarp.org.
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