In preparing to write this article, I took a quick look at my Outlook account to see how many unopen emails I received in a 24-hour time span – 146. I then looked at my personal Gmail account, and it did not fare much better – 129. Up until that moment, I never realized how many emails I received on a daily basis with the majority being from complete strangers.
If you are like me, these numbers are not surprising; in fact, according to a study of business and consumer-oriented emails by Radicati daily email traffic in 2018 was in excess of 235 billion emails. This data set shows that there are about 124.5 billion business emails sent and received each day, while there are about 111.1 billion consumer emails sent and received each day.
So is it dangerous to open an email from a stranger?
Like so many things in life, the answer is both yes an no. Let us elaborate:
No – It is not dangerous to merely open an email from a stranger
Yes – It can be very dangerous depending upon what you do once you have opened the email.
In this article, we will give you some practical tips and insights on how to handle the clutter that is your email account, and not to become a victim of a scam.
Here are a few red flags that you should look for in emails from strangers
Misspelling of your name
- Even friends from time to time can make a mistake with your name, but a misspelled name definitely means that the person does not know who you are, and at best they are trying to sell you something in the email, at worst it could be a possible virus trap.
- Dear Sir, Dear Madam, or My Dear all indicate that the person has no clue who you are and are just sending out phishing lures.
- Messages may also contain subject lines intended to trick you into thinking you know the sender: “Remember me? ” “Re: Your Call,” and “Hey You.”
- It goes without saying never open up any attachments no matter how tempted you are
- Open only attachments that you requested
- Avoid any attachments that may run an executable file that will load on your PC. A good rule of thumb is to not open files with the following extensions “.exe,” “.com,” “.bat,” or “.scr.”
- Like executable files, hyperlinks should never be clicked. Be particularly careful of hidden hyperlinks that will activate when you mouse over it. These links may take you to a malicious website that contains viruses or some type of malware.
- Verify all hyperlinks before clicking on them.
- Do not open emails with a subject line that is a threat or makes a demand
- Do not open emails that offer you prizes or says that you have won something
Requesting a favor (from strangers or friends)
- Do not open messages with a subject line of a stranger asking a favour.
- Be wary of requests from friends or coworkers asking for a favor. Look at the return email address, if you do not recognize it, then delete it and do not respond.
- When you receive an email containing an unknown subject from an unknown sender, do not open it. The message could contain executable code that launches immediately after opening the email
- Do not reply to any mysterious email with an unknown subject and sender. This simply confirms to the sender that somebody is reading the mail.
Stay up to date
- Keep your versions of Windows, up to date with the latest patches.
- Ensure your browser is the most recent
- Keep your email program is current
- Use anti-malware software to help keep your system clean.
By being a little email, savvy spammers and scammers do not have a chance.