Once upon a time, it was a thrill to receive email. We enthusiastically welcomed birthday greetings and meet-up offers from friends, but today, most inboxes receive a deluge of unwanted, suspicious-looking content. Unfortunately, much of it is spam. So, it follows that consumers reported almost $8.8 billion in losses to fraudsters last year according to the Consumer Sentinel Network — that’s an increase of more than 30% over 2021 records.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network collects accounts from over 2,800 sources. Police departments, non-profits like the Better Business Bureau, and state and international law enforcement groups contribute. Collected data is examined from many angles to determine emerging trends and new areas of concern.
Beware of odd characters and symbols
As these white-collar crimes soar, some consumers have observed a bump in the number of strange subject lines in their emails. Ones like “â˛«Canvas Prints Promo! 9” pop up frequently. Think danger when the email originates from a user named “syaoemd-15468cacsy.” These offbeat texts with odd characters should be treated as a sign of danger.
The best thing you can do to protect your data and your wallet is to slow down. Speedreading can turn dangerous otherwise.
Spam or not?
Spam is a fact of life in 2023, and most individuals use tools to sift out this sort of junk mail and divert it to a separate folder. Your spam filter will offer several settings, including low and high. The higher the filter selection, the less likely dangerous communications will land in your inbox.
What activates that spam diverter? Sometimes, a subject line reads, “Free Money” or “Help the Earthquake Victims.” Triggers include excessive punctuation in the subject line or key terms often discovered in past spam campaigns. For example, the list for some software contains words like “Earn,” “Bank Alert,” and “Package Delivery Failure.”
When emails with these subject lines still appear in your primary mailbox, they’ve successfully navigated your spam filter. It’s essential to investigate any wayward emails before you open them. Scrutinize the sender’s email address. Does it fit the email topic? If not, trash it.
Know the proper code
Phishing emails laced with malware continue to rise. Unfortunately, so do other types of spam. While these odd characters look suspicious, they might be a simple error caused by the text encoding instructions set at your end or from the sender.
Other non-threatening explanations include the following:
- Your Domain Name Service or DNS might read Typo and TYpO as the same word. That’s known as being case insensitive. DNS translates domain names into IP addresses.
- A legitimate sender could employ odd capitalization to catch your eye.
- The email might originate from non-standard encoding on the other end. Gmail states it sometimes needs to guess which encoding system was used during a send. If the service guesses wrong, that has the potential to create odd characters.
- Occasionally, formatting marks that are usually invisible will appear on the receiving end.
Online banking alerts and subjects that read, “Hi, remember me? It’s Roger from high school” are additional ploys that often indicate spam or phishing.
How to shield yourself
Nobody wants to lose $650 to a scammer. Yet, that is the average amount the FTC reports lost per victim, but some unlucky folks lose thousands. Last year, investment scams generated $3.8 billion in reported losses in 2022. That figure is double the damages listed in 2021. Impersonator scams were most frequently reported to the government last year, and injuries in this category rose 50% year over year.
So how do you dodge more scammers? Consider one of IDShield’s primary monitoring efforts. We scan for multiple email addresses our members use. Since we monitor around the clock for those addresses, we can spot one where it shouldn’t be. That triggers an alert that thieves may have access to your emails. And rapid detection can reduce or possibly eliminate damages.
If you uncover a scam assault, share your discovery with the federal government. The FTC records emerging scams on its website, and they want to hear from you.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. IDShield plans are available at individual or family rates. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.