I don't know which I despise more, the constant scam calls and robocalls that seem to come more frequently every day, or the equally annoying phishing emails and spam that appear to be increasing at a similar rate.
Phishing emails attempt to trick you into disclosing your personal information for fraudulent purposes, or they appeal for money, donations or cash equivalents like gift cards directly. Unfortunately, several of these phishing emails have been sent to members of The United Church of Christ in Florida over the last few weeks, and some have even used our logos and branding.
Both the scam calls and the phishing emails are so despicable, it's hard to say one is worse than the other. But at least you can do something about the spam and malicious emails. The main thing is to report them, as soon as possible, both to your email provider (more details on that in a bit) and to the person or organization from whom the scam email appears to have come. It's very easy for these scam artists to disguise who the email is coming from and/or the email address from which it originates. This is called spoofing.
Now, reporting the scam emails probably won't make much if any difference in the quantity of garbage and scam emails you receive. Your email provider and/or employer and the quality of it's spam and phishing filters will likely have more of an impact there. Good filters will prevent you from even seeing by far the majority of spam and scam emails sent to your email address. But even the best filters will let some malicious email through.
Reporting malicious emails to your email provider will allow them to adjust their filters to catch and block these emails. Further, if you provide them with the right information, they will be able to track down where the emails are really coming from and file a complaint with the offending email provider, which may then disable the originating email address.
That won't stop the scammers and spammers. They'll just go get another free email address and start all over again. But at least they won't be able to see any future responses or financially benefit from them once the email account is disabled. Of course, some email providers are less responsive than others, and, unfortunately, a lot of people can fall victim to these scams before an email account is disabled, if it ever is.
That's why it is even more important, perhaps, to inform the other victim here, the person or organization from whom the scam email appears to come. That way they can inform their friends, members or patrons of this attempted fraud proactively and maybe, just maybe, you'll have saved someone else from falling prey to the email scam artists.
So, how can you tell if an email isn't really coming from the person or email address it appears to come from? Well, if you know how to read email headers, you can figure it out. But most people don't even know where to find an email's headers, much less how to decipher them. And even those who do know aren't going to look at the headers for every email they receive. You shouldn't have to for most emails.
What you do need to do, though, is approach every email with a little suspicion. If something seems a little off, it probably is. A lot of these scam emails come from outside of the United States, and English is likely a second language for most of the authors. So look for little errors in spelling, grammar and usage. That's usually the first clue for me. You may then notice other inconsistencies or red flags.
The cardinal rule here is trust your gut. If you get an email that seems a little off for whatever reason, do NOT respond. Instead, reach out to the person or organization the email appears to come from and ask if it's legitimate.
But don't stop there. Report it to your email provider, too! To do so, you need to know where the email is really coming from, and the only way to do that is to look at the "full headers" of the email. Actually, you don't even need to know how to decifer the headers to determine where the email is coming from. You just need to know how to get to the headers and send them to someone who knows how to read them, basically the security and abuse department of your email provider.
Following are instructions for getting and sending full email headers that should work on most Windows computers. If you need help, please feel free to call me at (407) 835-7501 during office hours Monday through Wednesday, and I'd be happy to walk you through it.
To get full headers, double click the email in question to open it in its own window. Then go to the "File" menu of that email at upper left and select "Properties". At the bottom of the window that opens, you'll see a field called "Internet headers" or something similar. Place your cursor in that field, hit Control and "A" at the same time to select all, then Control and "C" to copy.
Then close the window and forward the email to the abuse department for your ISP/email provider, usually abuse@ISPname.com (i.e., firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.). Before you hit send, write a brief note at the top that says something like "this looks like a scam" and then hit Control and "P" at the same time to paste the headers into the email. You might want to CC the person or organization the email appears to come from. Then hit send.
It's unfortunate that we live in a world where we have to keep our guard up against scams in our emails, on our phones and even in the mail. But it's a fact of life these days, and being aware is the best way to avoid being a victim.
Office Manager / Communications Director
If you have a servant's heart and a sincere desire to share your unique gifts in service to God and your community, or if you know someone like that, The Florida Conference needs your help. Won't you consider nominating yourself or someone else who might be willing serve on the Florida Conference Board of Directors, its committees or as a delegate to General Synod in 2019 and 2021?
The Board of Directors and its committees usually meet quarterly in Orlando, with one meeting usually held in conjunction with our Annual Gathering in the Fall. Nominees need to have reliable transportation and enough flexibility that they can attend meetings consistently. In addition, the Board seeks to maintain diversity among its members and committees, with a balance of clergy and lay leaders, ethnic diversity and youth representation.
We are currently seeking to fill the following openings:
- Board of Directors: Registrar and youth representative under 25
- Nominating Committee: Two openings
- Budget & Finance Committee: Three openings
- Personnel Committee: Two openings
- Legacy Funds, Investment Committee: Two openings
- Legacy Funds, Planned Giving Committee: Two openings
- Committee on Church & Ministry: Openings for one lay man and one lay woman in the northeast region, one lay woman in the southeast region, and one lay woman and one lay man in the west region.
The nomination form may be found -> here ->, and nominations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Florida Conference, 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL, 32817 by no later than Aug. 31.