June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Staying safe on the Internet: E-mail messages

In last month’s column, I wrote about staying safe on the Internet by avoiding suspicious Web pages. You should treat e-mail messages with the same amount of delicacy as Web pages. Most of you probably know what “spam” is (mmm, good breakfast meat). Spam on the Internet is basically unwanted e-mail, junk mail, if you will. Mail carriers deliver junk mail all the time to your regular mailbox, but that’s only once a day. E-mail can be sent and received at any time during the day, which can then produce more spam messages.
All e-mail services offer a “spam filter.” When an e-mail is received, your e-mail host checks the sender and the subject. If the e-mail sender has been marked as a “spammer” — one who sends unsolicited e-mail — that message is then put directly into your spam/junk folder. The e-mail host also checks the subject line for any obvious spam messages, like the one saying: “You Have Won $1,000,000,000! Enter your checking account number.”
Spam/junk mail filters are extremely useful tools. In my e-mail inbox, I receive about 30 to 50 spam messages a day. A lot of spam/junk mail also may contain viruses in them. So it’s a good idea to leave the messages alone that end up in the spam folder. Do not open them!
However, nothing is ever perfect in this world. I would recommend that you check your spam/junk mail folder regularly for any messages you may have wanted that got stuck in the loop of the spam/junk mail filter. If any messages do end up in your regular inbox that seem “fishy” and nothing that you would sign up for on the Internet to receive, just delete them or throw them into the spam folder. Most e-mail hosts have a button that will put the message in the spam folder and also blacklist, or block, that e-mail address from ever sending something to you again.
If you do receive any e-mails from a company or organization saying they need you to log in to your account to change some information and they provide a link, don’t click it. Even though some e-mails you receive that say something to that effect may be legitimate, it’s an unsafe practice to click on links in an e-mail message. If the message happens to be from a spammer, that link may take you to a fake, or phishing, Web site asking you to log in. If you did log in and it was a fake Web site, you just gave out your user name and password for the real site.
The Internet can be a very scary place at times. However, with the proper knowledge and awareness of the dangers that lurk on the Internet, you can utilize all the helpful and fun resources safely and securely.
Schwartz, a graduate of Cloverleaf High School and the Medina County Career Center, is a student at the University of Akron.