As we reach the end of January, I’m guessing a few things in our lives haven’t changed. New year’s resolutions are likely history, masks are still a must, we’ll be eagerly waiting to catch the groundhog’s shadow in a few days and some guy named Tom Brady is in the Super Bowl again. The evolution of technology enables criminals to “enter” our lives from anywhere in the world through the World Wide Web, too, and they share one common target: your money. Emails can be dangerous because criminals may gain access to your personal information or introduce a virus to your system. The “delete” button should be considered your best friend whenever you are picking up your email.
In many cases, warning signs of suspicious emails are visible so take a few moments to learn some precautions you can take to prevent crime. Here are a few tips to reduce the chances you’ll need to visit the police station or computer repair shop.
Check who is sending you the email; be very wary of a name you don’t recognize.
Check the domain name, after the @ symbol; be suspicious of free or generic accounts, which have been set up. Government agencies will never use a generic account while legitimate businesses and groups won’t misspell their names. You should also be cautious with correspondences hinting of a connection to a true organization, especially charities.
How do the grammar and spelling seem? While most of us do not have an Ivy League degree, the improper use of English should be considered a warning sign and is usually easy to catch.
Avoid “clicking” on a link to view an offer or accept a gift. It’s likely you will be directed to another site, possibly even a fake website that seems pretty convincing. Of course, you can also infect your computer or the system you are part of with a dangerous and costly virus. Sadly, but truthfully, it’s quite unlikely you were simply chosen at random to receive a great gift.
Don’t be tempted to call the telephone number provided in the correspondence. Although the caller may seem sincere, he or she is likely going to do anything to gain your trust and eventually your money.
Lastly, agencies will not send threats through the email; you will not be given a deadline to respond or risk having authorities arrive at your home. This type of correspondence can be very upsetting, especially if you believe the email is from the FBI, IRS or a law enforcement agency.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to your local police department when confronted with a suspicious or threatening email. While it may not be possible to determine where the correspondence truly came from, officers can answer questions, review the document, refer you to other agencies and most importantly, make you feel more at ease.
Tom Hanshaw is retired from the Amesbury Police Department.