Protect yourself from email and social media scams

Email and social media scams are not only a common problem online, but they also continue to become more sophisticated. The most common type of scam is phishing, where a scammer tries to gain access to your personal data by impersonating a legitimate company or contact. Even though these types of scams are becoming more sophisticated, it’s possible to protect yourself by following a few simple rules and guidelines.


Check the ‘From’ address

It has become common for fraudsters to impersonate people you know by setting up fraudulent email addresses with ‘From’ names you recognize. When the email comes into your inbox, it looks as though it has come from a friend. However, if you double check the address that the email has been sent from, you might discover an unrecognizable address that looks obviously fake. So, if you receive an email from someone you know that strikes you as unusual or asks you to provide personal information, send money to someone, or purchase something, make sure to double check the from address to ensure it’s legitimate.

Don’t share personal information

Even if you receive a legitimate email, it’s not recommended that you share any personal data through email. Emails do have to travel to their destination, making it possible for them to be intercepted. Even if you receive a legitimate email from someone you know, it’s best to communicate personal information in person or over the phone rather than through email.

If in doubt, pick up the phone

Finally, the best line of defense against email fraud is simply to pick up the phone and speak to the person or company who sent you the email. If you have even the slightest trace of doubt about an email you’ve received, get in touch with the person who sent it to you and double check its legitimacy. You should never feel embarrassed to check the legitimacy of an email you’re unsure about. Being able to use critical thinking is an important part of being a responsible digital citizen and protecting yourself from scammers.

Social Media

Use unique passwords

It might be tempting to use the same login details across all your social media profiles, but one of the most effective ways to protect your accounts is to use strong, unique passwords. If one of your accounts is compromised the others will remain secure. To help you generate and store all these passwords, consider using a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane.

Only enter personal information on secure websites

Social media websites, banks, and other online sites will never send you links that you have to click through to enter personal information. They might however have something built into their regular login flow to update information or add security features. Regardless, anytime you’re asked to enter personal details make sure you’re doing so using a secure site. You can check this by looking at the web address and making sure that it starts with ‘https.’ The ‘s’ indicates a secure site and that the data being transmitted is encrypted as it travels from you to the site.

Double check privacy settings

Perform an audit of your privacy and security settings on social media sites every few months. Social media sites are constantly updated with new security measures that you should take advantage of to protect yourself. When in doubt about your settings, err on the side of caution and choose the most conservative option. Remember, you can always change these settings later on if you need to.

Don’t accept friend requests from strangers

We all get a lot of friend requests across our social media profiles. As a general rule, it’s best to reject any requests to connect with people you don’t know. This might seem like a grey area when you have mutual connections, but keep in mind that there are a lot of strategic scammers who will send requests to people who are connected to one another because they know that seeing mutual connections brings people’s guard down. All it takes is for one unsuspecting person to accept their request and others who are connected to them will often follow suit.

By Mike Agerbo

February 27, 2020