I am sure we’ve all seen them in our inbox. A wonderful uplifting story sent to us (and hundreds of others) from a friend. We read the story and are amazed at the details.  We marvel at the miracle and gladly pass it on to all of our friends.  The only problem is that the story may not be true at all.  We may also have been a victim of a scam where we are told to provide some personal information.

How are we to know if something is real or not?  Well there’s a few things we can do to protect ourselves. The first is to understand some basic rules about emails.

1. Who is the email from?

If the email says it’s from a large company such as a bank or retail outlet and they are asking you to provide some information by clicking a link chances are it’s a scam.  Major corporations do not ask you for information that way. Whenever you see a big name in an email be aware.

2. Use Anti-Virus Software

There are lots to choose from. The big names in anti-virus are Norton, McAfee and AVG.  Not having anti-virus today on your computer is leaving you wide open for attacks from all sources. It’s worth the annual fee to stay current and protected.

3. Don’t open attachments

Many viruses and malware (?) hide in attachments. It’s always a good thing to never open an attachment unless you know for sure you can trust it. This is where anti-virus software can really help keep you safe.

4. Recognize the signs

There are many types of email scams but here’s a list of the most common types.

  • requests for information
  • bogus business opportunities
  • chain letters 
  • work-at-home schemes 
  • health and diet scams 
  • easy money 
  • “free” goods
  • investment opportunities 
  • “guaranteed” loans or credit

5. Check at Snopes.com

snopes.com is a place you should bookmark and look first to see if any email you get is a scam. The site has been verified by a number of sources [1] as accurate and in general can be trusted.

1. http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/snopescom/