Strictly speaking, spam is unsolicited junk email, much of it commercial in origin. Some of it is merely irritating, filling your inbox and slowing down your system.
However, some spam is actually harmful, so always stay alert. Criminals use it as a way of getting hold of personal information, such as bank and card details, and can then use it for fraudulent purposes or to steal the owner's identity. Financial and other institutions can also be attacked in this way.
Never open an attachment or click on a link unless you're positive they're genuine - hover the cursor over them to discover their origins without committing yourself. Don't disclose any personal or financial information, such as banking details. If you reach a website by way of your inbox, take care not to follow any links from the web page - emails can be spoofs, so if the sender is familiar but the message seems strange, check with the sender (but not by replying to the email!).
If you're asked to log in to an account, do it directly via your browser, rather than by any links in the correspondence. It's easy to panic when the message cites suspicious behaviour on your bank account, for example, but it's unlikely that an organisation would contact you in this way for a breach of security, and far more likely that the only dubious actions are from the would-be fraudsters.
So stop to think for a moment, and you will reach the right conclusion. If you're not sure, get in touch with your bank (or whoever) for reassurance.
Phishing can also send malicious attachments to infect computers, tablets and phones, leading to viruses or hoax websites that can steal your personal information. This makes it easier to carry out credit card fraud or identity theft, so always be on your guard. It will become automatic in the end, keeping your money and your identity safe.
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