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Image showing sliced up spam to convey the theme of the article, which is about spam messages

Understanding spam messages: a short guide for our clients.

Unfortunately, if you have a website, no matter how careful you are, and what tricks you employ, eventually you’ll get spam messages. 

These can range from harmless, to harmful. And, sometimes they can be quite distressing if you’re not used to them. 

So, we thought it’d be a good idea to write a short guide to spam messages for our clients. 

We want to help you understand how to spot a spam message, and give you some examples of different types of spam messages. 

How to spot a spam message

Spam messages usually come into your inbox because a human has programmed a “bot” to visit thousands of websites and locate any contact details. 

When they find these contact details they then use them to send a preprepared message.

At Over Alt, we employ things like email address encryption and clever tricks on our contact forms to minimise this, but short of not having any contact details displayed, these bots will sometimes break through.

Luckily, most of the time, spotting a spam message is easy. 

Quite simply because it’s almost never personalised to your business or the services that you offer. They may mention your website address, but they won’t then say, I’m interested in your services about x or y.

And, a lot of spam messages tend to be written in poor English, and contain simple grammar and wording mistakes (such as, “I like your site truly”)

Quite simply – they won’t seem like a normal customer. 

If the message has come via a contact form, you may also notice oddities like their full name being written in the “first name” box.

Most of the time, spam messages are trying to get you to buy or do something. 

The best way to spot a spam message is to see some examples. 

Example one: Selling a service (mostly harmless, but annoying). 

These are messages that are selling, or will one day look to sell, you a service or product. 

The services/products themselves, most of the time, aimed at website owners. So, they’ll say things like “we can get you to number one on Google” or “get more website visitors” etc. 

Here’s an example of a typical spam message that we get:

Example of a spam message that is trying to sell a service that offers to increase search rankings for a website

Notice how it immediately sounds and feels a bit off. 

Safe to say, we would never advise engaging with these messages. Ever. 

Example two: Spam messages that contain a random link (potentially harmful). 

These often come through selling a service but asking you to visit a link. 

The link itself is often shortened / renamed so it’s not clear what you’ll be clicking through to. 

Why a link? Most of the time many blogs online have a comments section on them, and sometimes website owners may publish a message without really thinking. If they publish a link to another site on their website, then it sometimes provides that other website with extra credibility in Google’s eyes (although they are stamping this out). 

The more sinister reason for the link is that it will take you to a website that is able to get you to automatically download some malware (virus). Here’s one that contains a suspicious link (obviously, we’ve blanked it out!)

Example of a spam email sent to a website that contains a potentially harmful link

If you’re own device security is a bit iffy, then this can do anything from lock you out of your device to reading everything you type (like your passwords and email addresses). Sometimes you may not even know that malware has been downloaded. 

Safe to say, never ever click on a link sent through by someone you don’t know or weren’t expecting. 

Example three: Spam messages that threaten you (harmful)

Thankfully these sorts of messages are few and far between. However they are often the most well written and can seem like they are specifically targeted at your business. 

They threaten things like legal action for not using a properly licensed image. Or, they’ll say that your website has been hacked. 

Whatever they say, the big give away is that they are putting pressure on you. They’ll often have an artificial deadline “respond via this link within 24 hours” etc. 

All they’re trying to do here is stop you from thinking rationally. Here’s an example:

Example of a spam email sent to a website that contains a link to harmful ransomeware
You can see here that great effort has gone into the writing style to make it sound as though legal action is on its way. The specific dollar amount also adds a sense of credibility, and causes worry. They are simply trying to get you to click on the links here, which then injects a virus onto your device.

If they’re saying that they’ll sue you for, say, a data breech ask yourself why? If your website was built with us, then we guarantee that no customer data is ever stored on your site. 

Are they saying that you’re about to be sued for copyright? Again, ask yourself how if all your images are either provided by you, or by us via our properly licenced channels. 

Perhaps they’re saying your site has been hacked? Simply check your site. If it’s looking normal then it’s already very unlikely – our security features also make this even more unlikely. 

If ever you’re worried about these types of messages, don’t forward it on to us. Instead, take a screenshot or a picture and email that over. 

We’ll take a look and let you know, but 99.9999% of the time it’ll be absolutely nothing to worry about.

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