Here's the text of an email I've just sent out to everyone at my job (in my capacity as IT Manager), I figure it might be useful to spread this info a bit wider.

Morning everyone,

We've noticed a sudden increase in the number of scam and/or virus related emails globally, so I just want to highlight some important issues before we have a problem:

  • Receive an email claiming that your email service is "out-dated" or something similar, and you have to click a button to "verify" your account? That's a virus, do not click on anything in emails you are not 100% sure about.
  • Receive an email with subjects like "invoice" or "scanned document" that you were not expecting? Have a look at the name of the attached file, if it is "Malware Alert Text.txt" that means the attachment was a virus and the email system detected and removed it. If the attachment is not "Mailware Alert Text.txt", do not open it, it is a virus.
  • Receive an email that claims to be a bank statement or a "payment confirmation" you are not expecting? It's a scam, they are trying to steal your bank details.
  • (This one is seen by a smaller set of people) Receive an email claiming that a domain name similar to one of ours is available for sale or being "claimed" by someone (usually in China)? It's spam or a scam.

So my basic guidelines when it comes to email:

  1. Be paranoid!
  2. Think carefully before opening attachments or clicking on links/buttons in email. It only takes one click to cause chaos for everyone and bring an organisation like ours (or much bigger ones) grinding to a halt.
  3. See point 1
  4. Your bank is not going to send you an important thing like your bank statement as a .html or a .doc file. In most cases it will be an encrypted file which you need the Striata software to open, occasionally (with ABSA at least) they may also include a "mobile friendly" mini statement in PDF format.
  5. See point 1
  6. Do not, ever, reply to people who claim to need your help to move large sums of money around. These kinds of scams are classified as "419 scams" (Google it), after the Nigerian penal code number that is used to prosecute these criminals in Nigeria. Many of the people who try to pull these kinds of scams (all over the world, many being right here in South Africa) are in fact dangerous criminals who would not hesitate to kidnap or murder people.
  7. See point 1

But mostly, see point 1.