How Do I Know If It Is Spam?
When It Began...
When spam first broke onto the scene in the form of unsolicited email messages - sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s - it was quickly understood that it was an effective and cheap way to mass market. From that point until today, some 30 years later, spamming techniques have evolved to the point where the need for better blockers and filters is an ongoing business. In 2003, then-President George Bush signed into law the CAN-SPAM Act in order to deal with the glut of unwanted and unsolicited email that finds its way into unsuspecting users' inboxes.
...What It's Become
There's no doubt about it, time and technology have enabled spammers to become more sophisticated in their methodologies, tripping people up by making junk mail look legitimate. Although many people are pretty savvy when it comes to identifying junk mail, there are still those of us who get tricked by these swindlers. Therefore, it is only good sense to be educated enough to know how to pick out the junk mail when you see it in your inbox.
Leave Spam in the Spam Folder
There are a few ways to determine whether the email you received is worth the time it will take to read it. One sure way to know if it is spam is if it ends up in the spam folder. Now, this might sound rather simplistic, but the fact is that a lot of folks go hunting through the spam file as though they needed the email relegated to that place. Sometimes legitimate emails can end up in the spam file if you have categorized the items as spam inadvertently. However, if you haven't made that kind of mistake, then the emails you will need to have will show up in the inbox. There are times when email goes to the spam file because of where it came from. Check your spam box for legit mail and allow what is important - then leave the rest alone.
Check the Email Address
By checking the email address you may be able to determine whether the mail is legitimate or not. Legitimate companies use a server that is based from their company website. An example of this might be firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask questions if you notice there is a line of numbers that precede the @ sign, or if there is the name of a free email service before the domain (.com for instance). Either of these situations is cause to pause and question.
Be Wary of Urgent Messages
Check the content for identifying hints that it is spam. If the email tells you that you have to do something immediately or within hours, or if it tells you to go to a link in order to "see what they have for you", then you can be pretty sure it is spam. Legitimate companies tell you what to do but they don't use a linking directive to get you there. Another surefire way to identify spam is by spelling and grammar mistakes. Spammers don't care very much about the message they're sending, they just want access, and as a result their emails often don't make sense.
Never Give Personal Information in an Email
Most legitimate companies will tell you up front that they won't ask you for personal information in an email. Besides, they don't really need to ask for personal information - they usually have access if they really need it. An email that asks for personal information - no matter how honest it may seem to be - is dangerous. Delete it immediately. The only place personal information should be put is in a secure, encrypted form, not in an email that is available for anyone's eyes to read.
Is It Personal?
Finally, check the salutation - the greeting. If you've been met with your first or last names, then it is likely a genuine email. Spam often greets you with "Valued Customer" or something of that nature. This is where you send it to trash.