The security breaches that are in the news virtually every week are constant reminders of the dangers of opening links and attachments in emails and text messages.
Always remember that you need to be extremely careful about clicking links in emails and text messages, even if the messages appear to have been sent by someone you know and trust.
It’s so easy to spoof email addresses and phone numbers these days that it’s difficult to tell at first glance whether a message was truly sent by the person listed in the “From:” field.
If you haven’t read it already, I recommend that you take a few moments to read this post that explains how to quickly spot a fraudulent email. Simply knowing what to look for can potentially save you a lot of time and grief.
Next, here are a few recommendations for handling emails and text messages that contain links and/or attachments:
1 – If a message appears to be a SPAM email, delete it outright without even opening it.
It’s much better to risk missing out on something that’s actually legit than to have to deal with the fallout of a phishing ploy or malware attack.
2 – If a message appears to be from someone you know, go ahead and open it.
But don’t open any links or attachments in the message without first contacting the sender by another means (don’t just reply to the suspect email!) and asking if they actually sent you the message.
If they tell you they didn’t send it, delete the message and move on.
If they tell you they did send the message, ask whether they received the link or attachment from someone else in an email or text message or if they discovered or created the resource on their own.
If they received it from someone else I recommend that you delete the message without opening the link or attachment.
Remember, the person you received that message from might trust the person who sent it to them, but the original sender could easily be a scammer who tricked the recipient into trusting them.
3 – Never, ever type sensitive information of ANY kind (usernames, passwords, full name, date of birth, etc.) into a form that’s embedded in an email.
Any legitimate company will ask for that information on their secure website, never in an email.
Now, the above being said, I realize that we’re all human and we make mistakes on occasion. Trust me, I’ve made more than my fair share of them over the years.
If you do happen to mess up and follow a link or open an attachment that turns out to be suspicious, it would be a good idea to do all of the following:
3 – Enable two-factor authentication on every online account that offers it. Truth be told, you should enable two-factor authentication on your accounts anyway.
Bottom line: The hackers and scammers of the world are getting smarter and trickier every day.
Knowing how to handle emails and text messages that contain links and/or attachments will go a long way towards helping you stay safe online and in your financial life.