5 tips for avoiding email scams

Windows Live Mail users (ie, Hotmail users) got a message today from the Windows Live Hotmail Team advising of tips to avoid email scams.  Since not everyone is a Hotmail user, I thought I'd reprint them here since I agree with all of them.

1) Be wary of e-mails asking for your personal information.

Any e-mail asking for your name, birth date, social security number, e-mail username, e-mail password, or any other type of personal information, no matter who the e-mail appears to be from, is almost certainly a scam.

If you have any reason to believe it may be legitimate, do not reply to the e-mail or click any hyperlinks; instead copy and paste the web URL or go to that company's website for contact information. Don't hesitate to contact the company's support channel to confirm legitimacy or check out a site such as snopes.com which lists e-mail scams.

2) Carefully read e-mails that appear suspicious.

E-mails that are poorly worded, have typos, or have phrases such as "this is not a joke" or "forward this message to your friends" are generally scam e-mails.

Sometimes company names or brands are misspelled or inaccurate; such as saying Windows Hotmail (instead of Windows Live™ Hotmail) or Bank of Amarika (instead of Bank of America).

3) Protect your Hotmail password.

[tzink] Or any email password, for that matter.  We have a problem with our outbound mail in that people's email accounts get compromised and spammers use them to spew out spam. [/tzink]

Create a strong password for your Hotmail account by using more than 7 characters and having a combination of upper and lower case characters, numbers, and special characters, like the @ or # symbols. It's also a good idea to change your password on a regular basis. Learn More.

If you receive a notification from Microsoft Customer Support confirming your request to change your password and you haven't recently changed your password, that's a signal that someone else may be trying to gain access to your Hotmail account, and you should immediately change your password.

To do so, either go to http://account.live.com, or within Hotmail, click Options, then View and Edit your Personal Information. You will be prompted to log in again. Once you do, look for "Password reset information" under your name at the top. Change both your password and your Secret Question/Secret Answer as both may have been compromised.

4) Take action!

If you think someone has accessed your Hotmail account, that the Windows Live ID sign-in page looks fraudulent, or you receive a suspicious e-mail that tries to confirm a password change you didn't authorize, change your password immediately via the instructions above, or go to: http://account.live.com. Next, help ensure your PC has not been infected with a virus or malware by running a free full-PC scan.

5) Help us identify new scams.

If you're using the Full version of Hotmail, you can select the dropdown next to "Junk", then select "Report phishing scam". Whatever you do, do not reply back to the sender.  Or, if you are an Exchange Hosted Services customer, you can submit the spam message to us using the appropriate submission method.

Now, I know to many of us some of these suggestions seem obvious.  But what is obvious to you and me is not so obvious to the people who are inexperienced with computers.  If there are 300 million computer users out there and even 0.01% don't know this stuff, that's still 3000 potential accounts that can be abused.  Spammers can do a lot of damage with 3000 accounts.

Skip to main content