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How to spot a piece of spam e-mail

E-mail has really changed the way we communicate over the last couple decades. The days of pen and paper letter writing are gone. But e-mail does have a negative side: the unwanted e-mail know as Spam. Billions of pieces of spam are sent every day. Do you know how to spot a piece of spam?

When it comes to spam, I like to break them down into two groups: Junk, just plain advertising, and Malicious, which is meant to deliver some kind of payload. Malicious spam can deliver its payload two different ways: either opening the e-mail itself or any attachment(s). I've had quite a few clients that got infected that use Outlook. If you use Outlook and have either the Preview or Reading Pane options turned on, Outlook is opening your mail to generate those views. So, even if you don't open the mail, Outlook still is.

So how do you tell if an e-mail is spam? Here are some tips on how to spot a piece of spam:

The From: field
This field can be easily faked. Do you know the sender? Do you now or in the past done business with that company? If you answered no to both questions, it may be spam. Also, look out for e-mail addresses that come from domains that provide free e-mail addresses (,, etc.) or end with a two-letter extension (,, etc.). Two-letter extensions are for domains outside America.

The To: field
This field should contain just your e-mail address. If there are multiple e-mail addresses listed, do you recognize any of the other e-mail addresses? If you don't, it could be spam. And if this field is blank, the odds are its spam.

The Subject: field
When it comes to the Subject field, if it doesn't sound right, it's not. Spam from other countries is quite often full of grammatical errors. Always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Odds are that e-fax, scan from a Xerox WorkCentre (notice the spelling) or notice to appear in court that is attached is just a virus.

The bottom line is if you question the validity of any e-mail from a person or company, don't open it. Pick up the phone and call them to confirm they sent the e-mail.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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