E-mail is magic! Instant communication at its best…but also its worst. E-mail can smooth a bumpy transaction, solve a problem quickly, remind someone you’re still in the business or provide a written record of a sensitive issue. But it can also be a mailbox full of junk mail, a misunderstanding, a stolen identity or the reason your computer is infected with a virus. Following are a few tips to help keep you safe when you use e-mail.
* Don't send personal information in e-mail. Do not send personal information (credit card info, bank account number, social security number) in e-mail. Period.
* Don't respond to unsolicited e-mails. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail asking you to proceed to a link provided in the e-mail, ignore it. When you click on a link in an e-mail and enter your log on information, this is a method often used to steal your password and personal information – resulting in identity theft.
If you think an e-mail is really from your bank, credit card company or a vendor who knows you – go to their website by typing their true web address in your browser and log into your account there. If they’re really trying to get your attention, you’ll see any alerts after you log in. Or call them.
* Don't open an attachment unless you are expecting it, even if it’s coming from someone you know. It’s perfectly okay to call or e-mail someone to ask if they’ve sent you an attachment. Even if it seems to come from someone you know, many viruses “spoof” e-mail addresses (grab them from other people’s address books) so you think you’re receiving an e-mail from someone you know.
When you do download an attachment, choose “save” rather than “open”. Then scan the file with your antivirus software before you open it.
* Close your “preview pane” in Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. An e-mail can contain a “self-executing” file, which means it runs as soon as you open the e-mail. When you view an e-mail in a preview pane, it is the same as opening it.
* Reduce the amount of spam you receive by being cautious where you post your e-mail address: don’t publish it on websites, don’t give it to every organization that requests it, be picky when you subscribe to journals and newsletters, don’t forward chain messages.