BBB Shares Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Inbox Safely

March 24, 2017

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your house; sometimes your inbox also needs a little tidying. With a little time and a plan to ensure your safety, cleaning out your inbox can be accomplished easily. Better Business Bureau® Serving Eastern Oklahoma employee Whitney Ortega shares a story about errors made while cleaning her inbox.

"During a long weekend, I decided to use my down time to go through the backlog of emails that had amassed in my inbox. I'm usually good about sorting through my emails daily but for some reason, I'd missed a day or two and, the next thing you know, the task seemed overwhelming. I first checked for any urgent messages. I realized that my inbox was mostly promotional emails, some of which I didn't recall signing up. I proceeded to unsubscribe from any newsletters or promotional emails I no longer wished to receive, opening each one to access the unsubscribe link at the bottom. My inbox was soon clean again, but the following week the number of promotional emails had increased, particularly those unsolicited offers. Where did I go wrong?"

If the error isn’t obvious to you either, then you may be at risk of not only cluttering up your inbox further but also exposing yourself to potential identity thieves.

 BBB has these tips to help you avoid a similar mistake:

  1. Do not open emails from unknown senders. If you don’t recognize a sender, do not open them just delete them. Senders can be made aware that you opened the spam email and will, therefore, continue to send you unwanted messages, possibly even increasing the amount.
  2. Do not follow links or download attachments from unknown senders. If a spam email is accidentally opened, do not click on any links. Clicking a link in a spam email is dangerous because scammers can claim it takes you one place but it goes somewhere else. Following links or attachments in SPAM emails could leave your computer susceptible to viruses. Often clicking a link will give scammers encouragement to keep sending you spam.
  3. Question unexpected links or attachments from senders you know. Just because you do recognize the sender does not mean the content is safe. If you receive an email out of the blue containing links or attachments check with your friend before opening them. Their email address may be compromised by hackers who are now using it to further their hacking web.
  4. Beware of phishing emails. First, what’s the difference between SPAM and phishing?  Spam is junk email that tries to sell you a product or service. Phishing is a type of spam that seeks to trick you into giving your personal information, like passwords, credit card numbers or social security number. These emails will often require you to take some action urgently. Phishing emails may claim to be from a service you do use, like social media, online shopping or email. These hackers do their best to trick you by including logo and making pages linked to appear the same as that of the business they claim to represent. This attention to detail often succeeds in tricking people who then enter their personal information. The hacker may then steal your identity, steal money or hold your accounts for ransom until you pay to get them released. If you receive one of these emails, ascertain if there is an issue with your account by contacting the supposed organization via their website and not by clicking a link in the email.
  5. Be careful what information you share via email. In a video by AARP on email security email was likened to a postcard. Once you send it, you don't know where it goes and who will see it and whatever is in the message is visible to all. Carefully consider what information you include in your message but also in your signature line and whether it’s vital to share with the recipient.


If you believe your email has been compromised, consider these steps:

  • Apply filters. Increasing the strength of your junk mail filters can prevent spam reaching your inbox. However, it may block some emails you do want. Therefore, continue to monitor your spam folder to ensure you’re not missing anything important. If a spam email does make it to your inbox, do not open it but mark it as junk or spam. By marking the unwanted mail and not just deleting it, you are teaching your email service how to treat any future messages from that sender.
  • Report suspected phishing attempts. If you are the victim of a phishing attempt, contact the organization being impersonated and let them know. Consider filing a report with your local police, the Federal Trade Commission, and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Forward phishing emails to which is received by the FTC and which is received by the Anti-Phishing Working Group who works with law enforcement agencies to fight phishing. If you believe your financial information has been compromised, contact your financial institutions immediately and monitor your account for any unexpected charges.
  • Check links safely if you're unsure the email is legitimate or a scam. To see where a link will send you, hover your cursor over the link but do not click. The web address that is connected will pop up. This trick can prevent you from accidentally trusting a website that may visually appear legitimate.
  • Change your password. It seems that the requirements for making a secure password are always becoming more complicated, but it's necessary as cyber criminals become more adept at guessing them. For tips on how to protect your accounts visit Lock Down Your Login.
  • Check your privacy and security settings. You can find links to a host of sites safety and security settings on Stay Safe Online.


For more information on cleaning your smart devices read this article about Digital Spring Cleaning:

If you do any file purging in the real world rather than the cyber one, be sure to protect your identity by disposing of sensitive documents responsibly. 56% of identity theft victims traced the theft to something that was stolen from their possession. BBB will host Secure Your ID Day, a helpful identity theft prevention event featuring FREE on-site shredding and tips for protecting your identity. RSVP for the event on FaceBook here.