We all receive unwanted flyers and advertisements through our letterboxes and if you have an e-mail account you’re likely to receive them electronically as well. We call these kinds of e-mails spam.
Although most unwanted e-mail is trivial, some may be abusive and potentially dangerous.
E-mails can also carry viruses which, although often harmless, can completely destroy the data on your computer.
Below you’ll find advice on how to avoid spam and viruses and what to do if you’ve been affected.
A virus is a program or piece of code that is self-replicating and can be transferred to your computer without you knowing.
Most are spread by e-mail but you can protect your computer using anti-virus software available from most PC stockists.
If you are part of a computer network and think your computer has a virus you should contact your system administrator immediately. If you are a home user, avoid sending e-mails as it’s possible you’ll spread the virus further.
Be aware of e-mails warning you of potential viruses – many aren’t true and actually carry viruses themselves.
Please do not contact Essex Police to report a virus as unfortunately we are not able to help.
Spam may seem harmless but unfortunately these kind of e-mails can do more than just clutter your inbox.
Special offers or newsletters
Even though the company sending the e-mail appear to know your name and other personal details, the chances are you’ve never even heard of them. That’s because your details have probably been obtained from a third party.
This type of e-mail is not illegal but be wary. At best the offer may be of interest to you but at worst it could contain a virus.
Jokes, images or programs
Even if you’ve received the e-mail from a known source you should be suspicious of attachments that could contain a virus.
Be particularly careful if the attachment extension is .exe, .bat or is a Word or Excel document that contains macros.
If you do not know the source of the e-mail you should avoid opening it and delete it immediately.
Abuse or explicit content
E-mails that contain abusive or explicit material could become a matter for the police. If you’ve received an e-mail that contains personal information and threatens your safety you should contact us.
We understand the e-mail may be upsetting but try not to delete it as it could be used as evidence. Instead, save it to your computer and a CD or floppy disc.
If the e-mail contains online child sexual abuse imagery or non-photographic child sexual abuse material, you should contact the Internet Watch Foundation. You can find out more about the foundation in the illegal material section.
It’s a good idea to create two e-mail accounts, a primary account you use to communicate with friends and family and a secondary one to use when registering on websites you might not know too much about.
The only way to avoid spam all together is to buy special software from a PC stockist that filters e-mails and prevents spam ever reaching your inbox.