Receiving emails

A very tricky area online is spam emails. Whether you receive these or not is down to how you view your email and if you've got any anti-spam software in place.

A little tip though – it's important, if you've got the option, to mark any dodgy email as "spam" as it's important to help your email learn what is junk and what you don't want to see any more. Consider the difference though between newsletters you once signed up to and now don't want any more, compared to "cold calling" spam. Mark actual nasty or junk mail as spam, and simply unsuscribe from emails you don't want to receive anymore (there should be an option in the email to unsubscribe) – don't tar a poor innocent newsletter with the spam-brush just because you've gotten bored of it.

Anyway – I digress. The point of this page is more to make you think about what is spam – and help you not to fall for any tricks!

If you are in doubt as to the origin of an email, try Googling some of the text from it... you might find articles like the one on this site telling you about a scam that's doing the rounds.

Overall rules to opening emails:

  • Don't open attachments on mystery emails.
  • Don't click on links of mystery emails. And read our guide to understanding links.
  • If something seems too good to be true, it quite probably is. (Not true, that is!)
  • Don't reply to mystery emails with personal information – not even your address.

Things to consider when you receive an email:

Is it one you're expecting?
Realistically, is someone you've never heard of going to email you a photo/a file? Always be very wary of attachments that you're not expecting to receive, as they can be a way of a sneaky spammer downloading something on to your computer (well, rather you do it for them when you download the attachment).

And anyway, would some random person have your personal email address (a business email might be different)? If an email is from someone you've never heard of and seems to have no relation to you – then don't open it.

Is it from a bank you haven't got an account with?
If you get an email from a bank you haven't even got an account with, then bin it. It's very unlikely to be legit – and what's the worst that'll happen if you delete it without reading it? You'll miss out on a sales spiel.

It's from your bank – but it's asking you for personal information.
This is the biggy – your bank will never ask you to hand over information about your account via an email. If you get anything asking you confirm your account number or similar, then bin it! And if the worst happens and it was legitimate, then your bank should know better and will learn from their mistake. If it does ask you to visit a link and then login, then be cautious about the link and read our understanding links page.

Did you even enter that lottery?!
You're emailed and told you've won a million pounds in an overseas lottery. Bin it! Don't reply and never give out your personal details.

Are you actually expecting a refund from HMRC?
This is one that's doing the rounds at the moment in various guises – an email with an attachment claiming you're owed a refund from the Inland Revenue. How often have the HMRC contacted you personally about your personal finances via email? Again - check links and don't download attachments.

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