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The w3Nerds Guide to Identifying and Preventing Spam

The w3Nerds Guide to Identifying and Preventing Spam

The nerds at w3 created this blog post to help their clients and local community read a quick article discussing spam and what do to about it. As a rule of thumb, when in doubt, reach out! A nerd is happy to help you properly identify an email, message, or contact form submission as potential spam. 

Spam is a growing concern and should be properly identified in order to not fall victim to its misleading text and/or malicious intent. However, how do we define spam? What distinguishes spam emails from other types of emails? What does spam imply in the context of the internet? Our guide will help answer those questions.

The Meaning and Types of Spam

Spam is always sent in an uninvited manner. It's obnoxious, it's usually promotional, it's sent to a large number of people and you’re receiving it whether you requested it or not. Spam is the act of sending unsolicited bulk messages and a spammer is someone who engages in this behavior. 

Types of Spam:

  1. Email: It jams your inbox and diverts your attention away from the emails you should be reading. 
  2. SEO: The practice of abusing search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to boost the spammer's website's search ranks. 
    • Content: Pages are loaded with popular keywords that are frequently irrelevant to the website in order to boost the site's ranking in search results for those keywords. Some pages may have modified old information in order to give the website a false sense of authenticity.
    • Link: You've encountered link spam if you've come across a blog or forum post that's crammed with unrelated links. The spammer is attempting to increase traffic to their page by utilizing this technique.
  3. Social Networking: False "throwaway" accounts on major social networking platforms are used to distribute spam.
  4. Mobile: Sent via SMS. Along with text messages, some spammers use push notifications to entice you with their offers.
  5. Messaging: Instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Snapchat are used to distribute spam. This form of spam has also grown to invade the world of dating apps with false profiles enticing members of the app with the thought of romance in exchange for bus money, gift cards, or worse. 

Recognizing and Preventing Spam

Once you've developed an understanding of how the majority of spam looks, it's simple to identify. Regardless of how you receive spam, the majority of it fits into a few "genres."

Genres of Spam:

  • Health and medical services: Spammers commonly promote miracle cures, weight-reduction shortcuts, bogus dietary supplements, hair loss therapies, anti-aging solutions, and alternative medications, among other things.
  • Dating and adult content: This category encompasses a wide range of topics, from online dating and matchmaking services to adult websites.
  • Computers, internet, and tech: Spammers aim to take advantage of the fact that many individuals aren't technical specialists when it comes to computers, the internet, and technology. Don't be fooled by advertisements for software or hardware, internet or mobile services, or electronics.
  • Service enrollment: In this case, the spammer is attempting to persuade you to sign up for a long-term service. Common services include educational programs and other types of insurance. Take note of how the sample email uses urgency as a social engineering technique to persuade the reader to make a hasty decision.
  • Financial services and awards: This sort of spam claims to be able to help you with your financial problems by offering low-interest loans, debt aid, or outright cash prizes. Don't fall for it!

What is the difference between spamming and phishing?

The difference between spamming and phishing is their intent. Spammers are annoying, but they aren't necessarily trying to harm you. They've got a product, an offer, or a service to sell, and they've concluded that spamming is an effective way to promote it and sell their product or service. Of course, their offerings and services may be fraudulent or of poor quality. 

Phishers, on the other hand, are cybercriminals who try to obtain sensitive personal information from you through deception or malware. Phishing scams, like spam, are frequently mass-mailed, but with more malicious purposes such as fraud, theft, and even corporate espionage.

I am getting spammed. Why?

"How can spammers find me if I don't sign up for it?" is a commonly asked question. The unfortunate reality is that many businesses profit by selling your email address and other personal information to third parties. This issue has become so prevalent and serious that the EU passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, which is a set of rules aimed at limiting what companies may do with your personal information. The nerds at w3 take this seriously and will never sell client data or our client’s customer data. 

Spammers use spam because it is a low-cost method of communication. Spammers can send emails to anyone they can locate for very little money. The spammer will readily see a return on their investment if only a few people reply positively to their campaign.

It's tough to hold spammers accountable because they utilize spoofing to hide their identities from recipients and internet service providers. Spam is an appealing alternative for less-than-scrupulous advertising and marketers because of the cheap risks and costs.

How You Can Prevent Spam

Spam doesn't have to be an intrusive element of your online life. There are many easy and basic tips and tricks you can use to block spam emails and limit the quantity of general spam coming your way. At the same time, you'll learn how to prevent spam emails from reaching your inbox.

  • Use your email client’s spam-reporting feature (See above image). Most prominent email providers have a convenient button for reporting spam emails. You may "train" your email to become better at spotting spam by doing so. Any emails discovered in this way will be routed to your spam folder instead of your inbox. Switch to a different email client if your current one doesn't automatically recognize spam and fraudulent emails.
  • Tell your email client which emails are not spam. Examine your spam folder from time to time, and if you find anything that doesn't belong there, move it to your inbox. This helps your spam filter in determining which emails it should ignore. We highly recommend whitelisting our w3 Nerds email accounts and you can click here to learn more about that process
  • Use a fake email when signing up for things. Lots of websites and ecommerce sites require the use of an email address. Never use your primary email for non-essential signups for things such as eBook landing pages or gaming apps unless it's absolutely necessary. You never know who will sell your information to a spammer.
  • Never engage with spam. This is true of all kinds of spam, not just emails. Never react to a spammer by replying to the email, downloading attachments, or clicking links. If you do, they may assume you are a responsive target and could end up trying to send you more spam.
  • Never make your contact information public. Spammers use the internet to find contacts. Make every effort to keep your internet presence as anonymous as possible. This includes your phone number as well as your physical address.
  • Inform someone you know if they have sent you spam. If you’ve received a spam message from a trusted contact, tell them that their account has been hacked and used for spamming. They will be able to take corrective action and recover control of their email account. 
  • Use updated software and security measures if you manage a website. To defend yourself from spammers looking to exploit weaknesses, keep your website's software up to date. In the meantime, implement Captcha technology on login pages, comments, and other interactive places at the same time. If you are a client of w3 Nerds, you can trust that we do this for each client and regularly update those security protocols with the latest security updates to ensure we are doing our part in the fight against spam and phishing. 
  • Utilize security software. With spam and other online threats continuing to pose a threat to your security, you'll need a powerful antivirus program that protects you in real-time from a variety of threat vectors. Contact us if you would like us to recommend security software. 

Stay Safe with Antivirus Protection

With billions of spam messages received every day, even the most secure inbox will experience a breach in security. Make sure you're safe from bogus links and attachments that could harm your computer. It is also important to ensure your recovery information is up to date so in the event that your email account becomes compromised you can quickly and easily recover it. 

Every day, spammers send billions of emails. Modern email providers capture the majority of these, but not all of them. Antivirus software is a complete security solution that guards you against viruses, harmful links, and attachments that frequently accompany spam emails in real-time.

Examples of Spam/Phishing