WHAT IS SPAM

Spam is any form of unwanted, unsolicited digital message that gets sent out in bulk. Often spam is sent via email, but it can also be distributed via text messages, phone calls, or social media.

The inspiration for using the term “spam” to describe mass unwanted messages is a Monty Python skit in which the actors declare that everyone must eat the food Spam, whether they want it or not. Similarly, everyone with an email address must unfortunately be bothered by spam messages, whether we like it or not.

Types of spam

Spammers use many forms of communication to send massive  unwanted messages. Some of these are marketing messages peddling unsolicited goods. Other types of spam messages can spread malware, trick you into giving out personal information, or scare you into thinking you need to pay to get out of trouble.

Email spam filters catch many of these types of messages, and phone carriers often warn you of a “spam risk” from unknown callers. Whether via email, text, phone, or social media, some spam messages do get through, and you want to be able to recognize them and avoid these threats. Below are several types of spam to look out for.

Phishing emails

Phishing emails are a type of spam cybercriminals send to many people, hoping to “hook” a few people. Phishing emails trick victims into giving up sensitive information like website logins or credit card information.

Phishing is the simplest kind of cyberattack and, at the same time, the most dangerous and effective. That is because it attacks the most vulnerable and powerful computer on the planet: the human mind.

Email spoofing

Spoofed emails mimic, or spoof, an email from a legitimate sender, and ask you to take some sort of action at your detriment.

Email spoofing is a technique used in spam and phishing attacks to trick users into thinking a message came from a person or entity they either know or can trust. In spoofing attacks, the sender forges email headers so that client software displays the fraudulent sender address, which most users take at face value.

Well-executed spoofs will contain familiar branding and content, often from a large well-known company such as Dangote, NNPC, UBA, Central Bank, PayPal or Apple but few to mention. Common email spoofing spam messages include:

  • A request for payment of an outstanding invoice
  • A request to reset your password or verify your account
  • Verification of purchases you didn’t make
  • Request for updated billing information

Tech support scams

In a tech support scam, the spam message indicates that you have a technical problem and you should contact tech support by calling the phone number or clicking a link in the message. Like email spoofing, these types of spam often say they are from a large technology company like Microsoft, Google or cybersecurity company.

If you think you have a technical issue or malware on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you should always go to the official website of the company you want to call for tech support to find the legitimate contact information. Remote tech support often involves remote access to your computer to help you, and you don’t want to accidentally give that access to a tech support scammer.

Current event scams

Hot topics in the news can be used in spam messages to get your attention. In 2020 when the world was facing the Covid-19 pandemic and there was an increase in work-from-home jobs, some scammers sent spam messages promising remote jobs that paid in Bitcoin. During the same year, another popular spam topic was related to offering financial relief for small businesses, but the scammers ultimately asked for bank account details. News headlines can be catchy, but beware of them in regards to potential spam messages.

Advance-fee scams

This type of spam is likely familiar to anyone who has been using email since the 90s or 2000s. Sometimes called “Nigerian prince” emails as that was the purported message sender for many years, this type of spam promises a financial reward if you first provide a cash advance. The sender typically indicates that this cash advance is some sort of processing fee or earnest money to unlock the larger sum, but once you pay, they disappear. To make it more personal, a similar type of scam involves the sender pretending to be a family member that is in trouble and needs money, but if you pay, unfortunately the outcome is the same.

Malspam

Short for “malware spam” or “malicious spam,” malspam is a spam message that delivers malware to your device. Unsuspecting readers who click on a link or open an email attachment end up with some type of malware including ransomware, Trojans, bots, info-stealers, cryptominers, spyware, and keyloggers. A common delivery method is to include malicious scripts in an attachment of a familiar type like a Word document, PDF file, or PowerPoint presentation. Once the attachment is opened, the scripts run and retrieve the malware payload.

Spam calls and spam texts

Have you ever received a robocall? That’s call spam. A text message from an unknown sender urging you to click an unknown link? That’s referred to as text message spam or “smishing,” a combination of SMS and phishing.

If you’re receiving spam calls and texts on your Android or iPhone, most major carriers give you an option to report spam. Blocking numbers is another way to combat mobile spam. In the US, you can add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry to try to cut down on the amount of unwanted sales calls you receive, but you should still be alert to scammers who ignore the list.

Tips to avoid spam

Spam is dangerous and annoying as well. Thankfully, there are several things that you can do or avoid to protect yourself from it. Below are some of the golden tips.

1. Keep your software updated

Whenever your site’s software becomes outdated, it becomes more vulnerable. For instance, you might notice weird articles on your site that you haven’t posted yourself. Besides odd posts, you might also start seeing numerous random comments.

That is usually a result of hackers accessing your site and including links to their sites in your comment section or the guest posts. To avoid such issues update your site and install a security plugin onto your website.

2. Always use Captcha

This challenge-response test is your first line of defence against spam, regardless of the circumstance. Without Captcha, software and bots can easily upload posts on your site. If Google indexes your site, ensure that you install some kind of Captcha on your login pages, comment section, and forms.

3. Track your backlinks

It is vital to track your backlinks activity constantly to protect your site against negative SEO attacks. Sudden spikes in backlinks leading to your site could signify the start of a link spam session. If you ignore it, you might experience significant inconvenience in the future.

4. Avoid subscribing to email lists using your primary email

If you are keen on downloading a free PDF, ensure that you do so using an email that you don’t use daily. You could also use an email you don’t use for important emails. That is because you don’t know the individual behind the opt-in form. When you start receiving spam, it is easy to miss out on important mail from business partners and clients.

Conclusion

We hope this article helped you understand what is spam and how to avoid this threat. Spam can be a real pain. Hopefully, you will be able to identify and protect yourself against them using the information and tips provided above.

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