By the Senior Center’s Digital Equity Coordinator, Martin Piccoli
With email and texts, it’s OK to have trust issues. Americans wake up to billions of new emails delivered to their inboxes every day. By comparison, the U.S. Postal Service delivers only millions of pieces of mail to our homes. And the Postal Service cuts us a break on Sundays. But email? It just keeps coming.
Managing email is challenging, and it can be risky too. Email scams abound. Sometimes they are obvious, but too often scammers create emails that look 100% genuine. What’s a person to do? Here are some tips to help you avoid scams.
1. Start from a strong place
Before you click on your inbox, take stock of your feelings and your schedule. Is it a good time for you to engage in what could be a can of worms? Are you rested? Is your stress level low? Many scams capitalize on us being in a hurry or not having energy or strength to scrutinize our emails.
2. Be skeptical
Before you click and open any email, you can check where it really came from. One Senior Center member received an email supposedly from “Customer Service at Norton Antivirus.” When she looked closer at the sender’s electronic address, it read “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Norton would never send its mail through gmail, so she knew it was a scam.
3. Monitor your emotions
Many scammers use our emotions against us. If an email creates a strong reaction, we are more likely to act on impulse. If you open an email and suddenly feel a strong emotion—excitement, anger, joy, curiosity or frustration—the best strategy may be to walk away from your electronic device and let the emotion pass. Come back to the email later and scrutinize it carefully.
4. When in doubt, stop and check it out
If an email looks or feels at all suspicious, do not click on any link or call any phone number included in the email. Instead, use a trusted method to check the validity of the email. If you receive an unexpected email claiming to come from your bank, pull out your debit or credit card and call the 800 number on the back to verify over the phone that the email actually came from your bank. If you receive an email from a friend and it has an unusual request or contains a link to click, pick up your phone and call your friend to determine if they really sent that email.
Finally, keep in mind that the Senior Center is a resource for you. We have ongoing programs and services that can help you navigate the world of technology. Learn more on our website at sc-ws.org.