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Security Problems - Mystery Emails

written by: •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 4/19/2010

Emails can be used to convey dangerous information as well as vital work-related data. Clever scammers use "mystery emails" to fool users into divulging personal data, to commit crimes, or simply to unload a virus onto your computer.

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    Understanding Blank or Mystery Emails

    Anyone with an email account is likely to run - at some time or other- into unusual, mystery emails.

    These might be blank emails, emails from known senders with unusual contents, or even messages from total strangers making any number of requests.

    In almost every situation, there is one correct response– no response.

    Mystery emails are one of the oldest security problems going back to the start of the internet. They carry with them a terrible risk, one that will be apparent either immediately or further down the line when you discover you bank account is completely empty.

    Security problems concerning emails require a certain amount of awareness about what is possible with an email, and how nefarious characters can employ electronic mail for malicious purposes.

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    Mystery Emails Explained

    Whether your mystery email is blank or containing a request for access to your bank account by the deposed ruler of an African nation with money to spare, you need to treat it with immediate suspicion.

    The chances are that the email you have received is dangerous.

    To work out whether or not the mystery email is immediately dangerous or related to some sort of phishing scam, visit www.hoax-slayer.com and compare your message to the comprehensive list that they have on offer there. You can also read this article on email phishing to see just how clever these scammers are.

    As a rule of thumb, any email that arrives completely blank should be immediately deleted, while a message with any of the following file types as attachments should also be removed - bat, com, eml, exe, js, jse, lnk, pif, scr, vbe, vbs, wmf, wsf, or wsh. Viruses can be hidden in these attachments.

    Up-to-date email clients such as Outlook should be aware of these extensions and prevent access to them on the client PC; most mail scanning software on the client or on the server should also pick these up.

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    Preventing Security Problems – Mystery Emails are Spam

    Treat spam emails with the suspicion they deserve One thing you should never do is reply to the sender. This will only have the effect of allowing them to confirm that your email address works, and is in use.

    Whatever your feelings about such emails, one thing is certain – if they’re unsolicited, they’re spam. As such you should take the appropriate steps to deal with them, utilizing both your email clients spam filter and dedicated mail scanning software that can either be added to Outlook/Thunderbird or whatever you’re using, or installed separately onto your PC.

    Our article on How To Avoid An Email Spam Attack should provide you with plenty of options on dealing with these security problems – now mystery emails will soon be a thing of the past!