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Make Sure Emails and Websites are Legitimate, Appropriate

Spammers are getting more sophisticated. No longer is a Nigerian woman whose husband was killed asking for money. An NDSU employee recently received an email that said an NDSU department won an award and even included a photo that had NDSU engraved on it. Links were included to the news release and to order the plaque. Something was off so they contacted the ITS help Desk. It's a good thing this person didn't click on the links, it could've led to a virus being downloaded, an offensive website, or a ticket to a scam.

If Something Looks Suspicious, It Probably Is

Sometimes junk mail/spam sneaks through the spam filter, like it did in the screen capture below and ended up in the inbox. But there were a few red flags that hinted to the email being spam.

1. Do you know person/company who sent the email?
In the screen grab below, the sender name is Textbooker65 and the email address is textbooker65@aol.com. Be wary of businesses that have don't have their company name in their email address, or who use "freemail" like Yahoo.com, Gmail.com or AOL.com as an email address. Any one can make up any name with freemail.

More more thing to note -  at the bottom of the email it's signed "Lisa Dennis". Question the authenticity of email when an email is "signed" but isn't in the sender name.

2. Watch out for a generic greeting.
In the example below, it's addressed to "Dear Professor" rather than being personalized with the recipient name. Good marketers use personalization in emails. It's somewhat easy to "scrape" or find email addresses online but more difficult to get the information behind an email address like name, address and so forth.So if you don't recognize the name or the company the email came from, don't bother opening it.

3. Never reply to spam.
The last line of this email reads:

If you do not want to be informed of future visits, please type REMOVE in the subject area of your response, and I will respond immediately. Please check the e-mail address if you had another address during the last 18 months note that one also so all of your addresses can be removed from our lists.

It sounds like the sender is being nice when offering the ability to unsubscribe from its emails. If you respond to the email, you are confirming your email as a legitimate email address. Then they can start spamming you all the more, or sell your email address to other spammers. They even ask for other email addresses you might have. Never respond to spam. Put in the junk mail folder and be done with it. 

4. Bad spelling and grammar.
Spammers are all over the world, and some don't write English well. A classic red flag for spam is content with bad spelling and grammar. However, you will note in the screen shot below there's pretty good grammar and spelling. Spammers are getting smarter. They have much to gain by writing and scamming in someone's native tongue.

spam email

If you have any questions about the legitimacy of an email, call the ITS Help Desk before clicking on any links or attachments. See Five Ways to Tell If an Email is Spam to learn more.

Likewise, be wary of questionable websites when searching online. One way to narrow your search is to use http://search.extension.org. eXtension has created this Google Custom Search to search more than 1,000 Extension websites across the country. Searching Google Scholar at http://scholar.google.com is another way to narrow your search to appropriate websites.

ITS Help Desk, (701) 231-8685

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