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Deemable Tech

Ask Deemable Tech: Am I Spamming My Friends?

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Ashton writes, "I have a problem. Recently my friends have been getting emails from me that are empty except for suspicious links in them. It looks like spam. I’m sure that I’m not the one sending them! What do I do?"

You’re not alone here, Ashton. We’ve gotten strange emails from friends on numerous occasions with nothing but a link or just weird text in the message. It goes without saying that you should never click that link. If a friend unexpectedly sends you a link to a website that you aren’t familiar with, don’t assume it’s safe to click! Contact them through another method like Facebook or on the phone, and ask them if they really sent you that link and what it is.

It sounds like you and your friends have found yourselves the victims of unscrupulous spammers. You see, spammers know people are much more likely to open an email from people they know, so what they try to do is make an email look like it’s from someone they know. There are several ways they can do this.

The first way is to somehow break into your account, and actually send spam emails from it. To do this, of course, they need your password. The way they are most likely to get this is to pose as a website you often visit and ask for your email address and password. You give it to them, thinking it’s legit, and then they can simply log in and go crazy with your inbox.

Another similar method is to infect your computer with a piece of malware that will take over your email. In either case, the first thing that you need to do is to change your password! That will lock them out.

We want to stress the need to be very careful about where you enter your email address and password. When you are about to enter that information on a website, pay close attention to the address bar at the top of your browser. There should be a lock icon visible next to the address, showing that this site is securely encrypted. In addition, the normal address for the website should show. For instance, if you’re logging into Yahoo Mail you should expect to see “us.mail.yahoo.com”.

Changing your password should stop spammers from sending spam directly from your account. Unfortunately, it won’t necessarily stop them from impersonating you. There’s a third type of email attack where spammers send emails that look like they come from you but don’t. This is harder to defend against, as your email account hasn’t actually been compromised. The good news is that usually the spam isn’t going to people you know because the spammers don’t have access to your address book. However, you may receive strange bounce back emails telling you that a message you never sent could not be delivered. That’s a clue that this is happening.

If you’re the victim of this type of spam, your best bet is to, well, wait. You’re only hope is that the spammers will get tired of using your address and just move on to a different one. If they don’t, your other option may be a painful one: changing your email address and updating your information on every other site you use that address to log into.

That can be a long and arduous process, so it’s a good idea to be proactive. Be wary of giving your primary email address to everyone who asks, and think about having a secondary address that you can use to sign up for new websites that you aren’t familiar with. That will keep your main email address from winding up on some list of emails for unscrupulous spammers. And, again, always double check the web address of a site before you enter your email and password to make sure it’s the real deal.

For more great tech ad?vice, download the Deemable Tech app (for iPhone and Android), and listen to Deemable Tech's full length podcast at Deemable.com. You can also follow them on Twitter @Deemable.