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How do I use email safely?

Your email

Whether you use email software like Outlook, Outlook Express or Apple Mail, or read your email online through your browser, it’s important to be cautious. Certain types of email messages and attachments can be risky.

Good security software can provide protection with applications such as anti-virus, firewall and others. It is important to keep your security software up to date.

Practice good email habits:

  • Think about whether or not you know the source of an email before you open it or click on links within it.
  • Don’t assume that just because a friend sent you a link, it is safe because you trust your friend. For example, your friend’s computer may be infected with a virus that sent the email to you.
  • Don’t click on an attachment unless you are sure it is safe.

For Bell Internet customers, McAfee Security from Bell is available and can help protect you. It has its own anti-virus, two-way firewall and other applications, and is updated automatically.

What is phishing?

Phishing is a type of cyber attack that uses email messages with phony addresses, websites or pop-up windows to gather your personal information, which could be used for a variety of purposes including financial theft, ransom, identity theft or other fraudulent activity.

Phishers circulate emails with legitimate-looking logos and design styles and may link to websites that also look legitimate.

For example, a phisher might send an email asking you to update your Bell billing details to keep your account active. The email will ask you to click on a link taking you to a website that looks like Bell’s, where you’ll be asked for your login and account details.

Or, the email may say you have a computer problem and need to click on or open an attachment to solve it. But if you click on it, you could install something damaging to your computer, or trigger your computer to send your personal information to the phisher.

Phishing can also be in the form of those emails offering money for work-at-home jobs, or asking for help with frozen bank accounts, or offering discounted pharmaceuticals, trips, etc.

What to look for

Here are some clues to recognize a phishing email:

  • The sender is not a known or trusted source.
  • 1 The email is asking for your personal information, or information that the company should already have.
  • The logos do not look right or there is bad spelling and incorrect grammar.
  • There is a sense of urgency.
  • The email promises large sums of money if you invest a small amount to help collect it.
  • The email may be related to work-at-home offers, business opportunities, make-money-fast schemes, credit offers and chain letter schemes.

How to protect yourself

Be realistic; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Do not respond to requests for personal information, such as your bank account number, in an email.
  • Be wary of alarmist, seemingly urgent messages; slightly altered web or email addresses; and emails with spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Look closely at the links – hover over any link to ensure it is a valid website.
  • Do not forward virus warnings that come with "send this to everyone you know" requests, even if they appear to come from a credible source. These messages are hoaxes, and if they include any links or attachments, they can be dangerous to your and your friends’ computers.
  • Be aware of the communication policies of the companies you deal with and what types of messages they will send.

Bell’s communications to its customers will never:

  • Request personal information, such as passwords, PINs, banking or credit card information (unless we are responding to an initial telephone inquiry that you made ).
  • Include links to virus removal tools. Instead, we will direct you to
  • Include attachments like executable (.exe ) files, password-protected zip files or ISO files.

If we identify that your account has been compromised, we may recommend that you reset your password. Follow the guidelines on good password practices to protect yourself.

For Bell Internet customers, services are available to protect against phishing emails.

Spam messages (or “junk email”) are unsolicited and unwanted emails for services and products usually sent out to bulk email lists. These sales pitches may be related to anything, including health products, adult websites, software, clothing, financial services and many other things. The products and services may be legitimate, or may be fraudulent. Or, the emails may be trying to get personal information from you in a specific type of fraud called “phishing.”

Junk email is different from spam. It is email from a legitimate organization but its topic may not be of interest to you. If you don’t want to hear about every sale, every single day, from that store you shopped at one time, use the unsubscribe link in the email. By law in Canada, all companies sending commercial electronic messages should set up an unsubscribe mechanism, which is usually a link found at the bottom of the message.

Marking a junk email as spam will usually not help as spam filters can distinguish emails from legitimate companies and will not permanently block them.

How to protect yourself

  • Do not feel obligated to give out your email address.
  • Share your email address only with companies and organizations you trust to keep it private, and avoid posting your email address on personal websites, website forums or newsgroups.
  • Avoid posting your email address online. If you need to do so, distort your email address so spam engines cannot pick it up. For example, type "john dot doe at bell dot net" instead of “”.
  • Ensure you have a spam filter for your email and that it is activated.
  • For any email you receive that you feel is spam, either mark it as spam or move it to the spam folder.
  • Do not respond to spam and do not use the unsubscribe button as it can validate the email address for spammers.
  • Do not use your work email for any non-work related matters.
  • If signing up to forums, offers or less important services, use an alternative (temporary) email address from a free service such as Hotmail or Gmail.

Bell employs rigorous spam filters for its email services.

The biggest difference between spam and phishing is the intent of the sender.

Spam is a popular method of making products visible to a large audience using bulk email lists and, very often, it targets people that have not expressed any interest in the product or company in the past.

Phishing, however, has a criminal intent to get access to sensitive information or inflict some sort of damage on a person or organization.

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

This federal law is designed to give Canadians more control over the commercial electronic messages (CEMs) they receive.

What is considered a commercial electronic message (CEM)?

A CEM is any message sent to an electronic address that has as its purpose, or one of its purposes, the encouragement of participation in a commercial activity, including an offer to purchase a product or service.

A commercial electronic message (CEM) includes communication sent by:

  • Email
  • Text message
  • Instant messenger
  • Social media

This also includes communication where a secondary message is included and commercial in nature.

How Bell follows CASL

To ensure that Bell is CASL compliant, the following are incorporated into our current practices:

  • Obtain customer consent before sending a CEM
  • Clearly identify Bell as the sender of the CEM (including name and contact information)
  • Provide an easy-to-use option to manage/unsubscribe from Bell marketing communications within the CEM

To learn more

Please visit Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation website to learn more about this Act.

Email harassment is a message sent to you threatening (or implying) harm to you or your loved ones.

Cyberbullying is the use of e-mail, websites, instant messaging, chat rooms, social-networking sites or text messaging to damage someone’s reputation and feelings of self-worth.

What you should do about it

  • Report any harassing messages directed at your children immediately to or by phone at 1 866 658-9022.
  • Parents can learn about the changing ways that their children are using the Internet by visiting MediaSmarts.
  • Learn about cyberbullying and what to do about it by visiting Public Safety Canada’s cyberbullying page.
  • Block individual spam addresses by enabling your spam filter.

What is misdirected email?

Just like getting a wrong number, you may accidentally get an email intended for someone else.

What you should do about it

  • Simply ignore a misdirected email message.
  • If you know the person who sent it, reply and tell them.
  • If it happens repeatedly or becomes a problem, block individual spam addresses by enabling your spam filter.