Email is a vital part of life today. It is everywhere - in fact, Constant Contact Inc states that “According to Radicati’s 2016 Email Statistics report, email will be used by 3 billion people by 2020. That’s almost half of the world’s population. (Out of the other half not using email, 1.6 billion people still don’t have electricity.) If you’re doing business in the developed world, your customers are actively using email. Make sure you are as well.”
That is a staggering amount of email usage! So how do we use email safely? There are people that are scared of email, they see or hear the stories of viruses or phishing or other email hazards and get scared (fair enough), but can common sense and a little education protect you enough to use email? We think so. Here are our 6 suggestions on how to use email safely.
Don’t send sensitive information by email. Not ever! First - what constitutes sensitive information? This can include (but is in no way limited to) credit / debit card numbers, Social Insurance Number / Social Security Number, passwords, or bank account numbers – just to name a few. The process of trying to trick someone into giving this information for the purpose of perpetrating identity theft is call Phishing. No company or government agency will ask you for this information by email. Even if you get an email that looks legit but asks for this information, it is likely fraud. Ignore and delete these emails.
Don’t click on unknown or suspicious links. If you receive a spam or suspicious email containing a link - don’t click it. Even if it is to unsubscribe, this may tell a spammer that they have hit a legitimate email address and they will send more. Rather, report the email as spam and block the sender. If you really feel you want to find out if the link is legitimate, don’t click it to find out. You can check the link using a link check such as Securi or other online services. Check the link first then click on it.
Don’t open attachments from strange emails or people you don’t know (or weren’t expecting). Attachments can contain viruses. Best to just drag them to your spam or deleted items folder. If you are unsure, email the sender (in a separate email) and check if they sent you the attachment.
Use a Spam filter. This goes a long way to protecting you. If you use a web hosting service that manages your email, they may be able to apply this on the server side (Shameless plug - we offer this to all of our clients).
Don’t share your password and change it regularly. This is one of the easiest ways to use email safely. Many people use their email account credentials to login to other sites. Changing your password regularly protects your privacy. Also to this point, never ever ever share your email password with anyone. Not even your email provider - they don’t need it, ever, for anything. Also use a different password for your email then for your other accounts.
Log Out. If using email on your computer (as opposed to web-mail) log out when finished or leaving your computer for an extended period. This is a very good habit to get in to.
Don’t be scared of email, but know how to use it safely and responsibly. Email is definitely one of those things where a little education goes a long way.