8 Tips for Using Email Safely

By Marilynne Rudick on April 8, 2011

Over50s seem to worry a lot about privacy breaches on Facebook. But the latest announcement from EpsilonData Management that its email system was hacked makes me wonder if I should worry more about the safety of email and less about Facebook. Epsilon’s breach means spammers and con artists may have access to tens of millions of email addresses of people who are customers of Best Buy, Walgreens, Target, and Disney, for a start.

Short of giving up email, what can you do to safeguard your email? Here are 8 tips for using email safely.

1. Have more than one email address. Use one email address for online shopping, bill paying, and promotional emails. Use another address for your personal communication. That way, if a company that you do business with has its email hacked, the hacker won’t have access to your private correspondence. Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL all provide free email accounts. And many Internet Service Providers let you have multiple email addresses.

2.  Be wary of email attachments. Never open attachments from people you don’t know. Viruses and other malware are often spread as email attachments.

3.  Never email your passwords, bank account information, social security number, or your date of birth. Reputable companies will never ask you to provide this information via email.

4. Don’t email credit card data. If you really must email credit card information, use separate emails for your credit card number, expiration date, and security code. Don’t broadcast in your subject line that you are sending the information. Information you requested is a safer subject line than Credit card information.

5.  Use Bcc (blind carbon copy) when emailing a group of people. To protect your friends’ privacy, put your email address in the To field and all other addresses in the Bcc field. Email recipients will see only their email address, not the addresses for all other group members.

6.  Give out your e-mail address judiciously. Think twice before you click yes to “Can we send you promotional materials?” And never say yes to “Would you like to receive offers from our valued partners?”

7.  Limit access to your email address. Unsubscribe from newsletters you no longer read and email lists of merchants you no longer do business with.

8.  Don’t forward chain emails. They may contain email addresses for dozens–even hundreds–of people you do not know.

Email spamming and scamming are facts of life. While you can’t stop it, you can make it harder.

Categories: E-Mail & Messaging, Safety & Privacy


  • Try http://www.notbot.org

    It allows to protect not only emails but all kind of data.

    Posted by: b3rn475 on October 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm

  • Great advice. I never thought about having a separate email address just for online purchases.

    Posted by: Peggy Sange on April 11, 2011 at 12:11 am

  • Mark,
    Good advice!

    Posted by: Marilynne Rudick on April 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm

  • This is an excellent post, but I would go a step farther on item 1: Never open email attachments that you aren’t expecting–no matter who they seem to be coming from, even if it’s someone you trust.

    It may seem like a hassle, but if you want to be assured of avoiding unsafe attachments, it’s smart to check with the sender to find out what the attachment is. If they don’t know about it or can’t tell you where it originated (people DO forward stuff they shouldn’t, after all) you can assume it’s dangerous, and potentially that the sender’s computer or email account has been compromised.

    Posted by: Mark Eberman on April 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm

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