Ever since the infancy of the Internet, spam has caused headaches for those that encounter it. Whether it be old-fashioned email spam or a modern phishing attempt through social media, we all have to deal with annoying, dangerous spam. Thankfully, tech companies have found ways to minimize the amount of spam we see, with spam folders and CAPTCHA tests becoming prevalent across the Internet. However, even with these security measures, spam still sometimes gets through, putting businesses and individuals at risk.
Early Days of Spam
The first recorded instance of “spam” actually occurred well before the invention of the Internet. In 1864, British politicians received a knock on the door, along with a telegram message; the politicians were terrified a war had broken out. But when they received the telegram, it did not tell of war or death, but an advertisement for a local dentistry. The politicians were understandably irritated and told the press about this occurrence, further amplifying the dentistry’s message as well . Ultimately, this story shows how annoying (yet successful) spam messages can be. And when the Internet broke into the mainstream in the 1990s, pranksters and cybercriminals set their sights on the new, burgeoning medium.
As Internet use became more widespread, emails became the main target for spammers. In fact, in 2008, spam was so prevalent, it constituted 92.6% of all emails sent . Although email was quickly becoming a valuable tool at home and the workplace, spam still made up the vast majority of all emails sent. Thankfully, in 2019, that number dropped to 28.5%. However, that number shows how spammers have simply found new, more successful ways to inundate users with ads and scams.
Unfortunately, many spam emails became more than annoying advertisements and sought to harm users as well. These scam emails seek to trick the receiver, typically by masquerading as another person. A well-known example is the “Nigerian prince” phishing scam, where the scammer promises a large sum of money in exchange for a smaller, upfront payment by the receiver. However, when the receiver makes the payment, the scammer does not fulfill their promise, making away with the upfront payment. While the success rate of this scam is low, it worked often enough to become profitable to scammers.
Modern-Day Scams and Spam
Now, spammers have diversified their targets, attacking people with more advanced social media and email scams. One prevalent example is a phishing scam that seeks access to personal Facebook accounts. In this scheme, scammers typically send a vague message with a link. When the user clicks the link, they see what appears to be a Facebook login page, but is actually a webpage masquerading as Facebook. Unsuspecting users then log in to the fake page, unknowingly giving their login information to the scammers. The crooks then have control of the account, then often post ads and try to trick the account’s friends with the same scheme.
Other modern scams use similar techniques, where the scammer typically disguises their email as an official work email. One example of this is CEO Fraud, where scammers, who pretend to be the CEO of the company, email lower-level employees at a business. The emails, typically written with an urgent tone, instruct employees to wire money to an account connected to the scammer. And while most employees don’t fall for this trick, the small amount that do lead to big paydays for scammers.
In addition, with the rise of cryptocurrencies and their decentralized, anonymous nature, crypto scams have become more prevalent as well. The most prominent example of this occurred in 2020, when 45 popular Twitter accounts were hacked, including Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Kim Kardashian. The accounts Tweeted identical messages, promising to double the value of Bitcoin that users send to a cryptocurrency wallet. While the Tweets were quickly taken down, the scammers still received over $100,000 in Bitcoin from users in that short period .
Tips to Avoid Scams
While many tips to avoid Internet scams may seem like common sense, it’s still important to review ways to protect yourself. After all, spam and scams are still evolving; we don’t know how these criminals will target their victims in a few years. So it’s crucial to stay informed on ways to protect yourself from these scammers.
Don’t click on anything from unknown accounts
This is the main way scammers can hack into your account and post spam. Just one click can give access to your entire account to the scammers. Only click on links from accounts and people you trust. If someone messaged you, and you’re not sure who it is, never click a link.
Check the email address
While this may sound obvious, double-checking emails can save you or your company from chaos. Scammers can make their emails look incredibly similar to official work emails; the only difference being a slightly different email address. For example, an email from email@example.com is safe. An email from firstname.lastname@example.org is not safe. Before clicking a link, always double-check the email address to make sure it’s from the official site.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
If you receive a message promising to double your money quickly, it is almost certainly a scam. Any message that promises thousand-dollar gift cards or free iPads simply wants your information to pile you with spam. Unless you’ve entered a sweepstakes, any message saying you’ve won something valuable is almost certainly fake.
AXEL’s Efforts to Can Spam
AXEL is committed to protecting your data, including protection from scammers, spammers, and cybercriminals. That’s why AXEL Go uses industry-leading data encryption, blockchain technology, and digital “shredding” to protect your data. As scammers evolve their practices, so does AXEL. For example, AXEL Go uses a system of decentralized servers to transfer your documents. So even if hackers gained access to a server, your files are still safe and uncompromised. To try out AXEL Go’s unparalleled data security, sign up for a two-week free trial here.
 “Getting the Message, at Last.” The Economist. December 15, 2007. https://www.economist.com/node/10286400/print?story_id=10286400.
 Johnson, Joseph. “Spam E-mail Traffic Share 2019.” Statista. January 25, 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/420400/spam-email-traffic-share-annual/.
 Iyengar, Rishi. “Twitter Blames ‘coordinated’ Attack on Its Systems for Hack of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Others.” CNN. July 16, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/15/tech/twitter-hack-elon-musk-bill-gates/index.html.