Email Spam and Email Scams: Big Deal or Little Deal?

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. April 11, 2016

Email Spam and Email Scams: Big Deal or Little Deal?

Is it safe to open that email message titled “You Just Won the Lottery!”? Or even something more devious such as “Notice from the IRS.” We get our printed mail from a metal mail box at the front door or by the road. It still seems like half of it is unsolicited - addressed to occupant. We call it junk mail. We fuss about the inconvenience (and the audacity of advertisers), but we know it can do no harm and it goes into the recycling bin with other paper.

What about junk email or spam? Their promises can be enticing – lose weight, find your mate, claim your lost inheritance, get your degree – all in a single day with little or no effort on your part! They can also be threatening – “call us now or we will take you to court.” Do the messages seem too good or too horrible to be true? Well, simply put, they are. 

The Federal Trade Commission helps us understand that spam is a “little deal” on its own – but it can be a “big deal” if you fall for the scam and send the scammers your personal information or download files from them.


Unwanted commercial email – also known as "spam" – can be annoying. Worse, it can include bogus offers that could cost you time and money. Take steps to limit the amount of spam you get, and treat spam offers the same way you would treat an uninvited telemarketing sales call. Don't believe promises from strangers. Learn to recognize the most common online scams. 

The Most Common Scams

Scammers use email, online ads, pop ups, and search results to trick you into sending them money and personal information. One way to outsmart them? Use your email’s spam filter to screen the email you get. Then forward any email that seems suspicious to You also might want to read our Phishing article. Click on any of the topics below to learn more about the most common scams.

Check out the following links to the FTC website to learn about

The Bigger Problem (“Big Deal”): Malware (aka Viruses)

 Hackers and spammers troll the internet looking for computers that aren’t protected by up-to-date security software. When they find unprotected computers, they try to install hidden software – called malware – that allows them to control the computers remotely.

It can be difficult to tell if a spammer has installed malware on your computer, but there are some warning signs:

  • Your friends may tell you about weird email messages they’ve received from you.
  • Your computer may operate more slowly or sluggishly.
  • You may find email messages in your sent folder that you didn't send.

 If your computer has been hacked or infected by a virus, disconnect from the internet right away. Then take steps to remove malware.

 The next Safety-In-Place blog discusses Malware in more detail.

Computer technology is a useful tool that allows us to learn, stay abreast of news and world events, communicate with each other, shop, bank, and read great websites like “Safety-In-Place.” 

Remember to be careful about trusting others with your confidential information – especially your social security number, passwords, addresses, etc. If in doubt, disconnect from the Internet and ask a trusted person.

*Note: Fall prevention efforts can reduce the risk of falling. Caregivers and older homeowners can become knowledgeable about what needs to be done to make homes as fall-proof as possible. Check here often and search for product ideas that can make you safer in your home!

Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.


Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.