Spam mails, a.k.a. junk mails, are unwanted or irrelevant emails that land in your mailbox. While the advertising-type of spam emails are harmless but annoying, there are other types of spam mails that you need to be aware of: phishing and malware spreading emails.
Phishing mails trick you into believing that they are sent from a legitimate and trusted company (such as banks or your business partners), and attempt to obtain your personal information. They will then use your information for fraudulent purposes.
Malware spreading emails come in suspicious attachments (or a url that links to the attachment), which release viruses that corrupt your PC or steal your private data if you download them.
To protect yourself from phishing scams and malicious attack, here are some ways to determine whether a specific email is a spam mail.
A legitimate company and bank will never ask you for personal and sensitive information – such as identification number, username and password – over email. If you receive any email that requires these information, no matter how genuine it seems, send it to the trash right away.
When receiving any email, even if it looks like it is from your regular sender, do look out for the sender name, domain and email address. Scammers could fake a domain or email by slightly changing their spelling, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com.
A brand will never risk making a bad impression with spelling errors. That said, if you receive an email that contains more than two or three grammatical mistakes, or if it is poorly written, it is possibly a spam mail.
Beware of emails offering rewards, cash prizes, etc, and those that attempt to threaten you, such as asking you to click on a link or your email account would be terminated. These are all spam mails, designed to tempt you into clicking a button or link in the email, which could lead you to phishing sites, tapping your personal information.
Never open or download an attachment from an email unless you know what they are. If you happen to know the sender and choose to download the attachment, it is a good practice to always scan it using antivirus software. If you have doubts, contact the sender to verify if the attachment is genuine.
If an email contains links, hover your mouse over the link (without clicking) to see the full URL. If it does not match the context, it is probably a malicious link. Beware of slight alterations to URLS that you visit frequently, too. For example, companyabcsite.com might appear as companyabsite.com.