Does Your Email Address Matter?
Recently, I received an email notifying me that my company had met the qualifications to be certified to participate in the state supplier diversity program allowing me to bid on state contracts set aside for minority-owned small businesses. The sender of the email was ben.greer @ ct.gov. Needless to say, I was happy to finally hear something about an application that had been submitted months and months ago to a nameless, faceless, government agency. One click on the link embedded in the email and I had a nice, official certificate showing on my computer display.
But what if the email had come from ben.greer@ gmail.com? Would I have taken the email seriously? Would I have taken the chance and clicked on the link in the message? Not a chance. That email would have gone straight to trash. It is better to assume that a link from an apparently unsolicited email leads to death and destruction of my computer files than the alternative.
When it comes to email, I prefer a near-zero-tolerance-better-safe-than-sorry approach. This means that I look at the sender's email address, subject line and message format (in that order) before deciding whether an email is worth bothering to consider. There's no high-technology going on here. Just a little common sense approach to separating the grain from the chaff. For me, here's how it works when I see an email from a previously unknown sender:
somename@ somecompany.com When I see an address like this, I assume it is a business address. If I recognize the name and company, I've got a pretty good idea of business correspondence. When I don't recognize the name or company, I assume it's probably some sort of solicitation or advertising, but I'll probably look at it. If I recognize neither name nor company, I'm pretty sure it's a solicitation.
somename@ majorinternetserviceprovider.com Major internet service providers include Comcast, Cox, AT&T, SBC, you get the idea. In this case, I assume that this is a personal email, not business correspondence. Even if this is meant to be business correspondence, it doesn't look very business-like to me.
somename@ freeemailservice.com Free email services include Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo and so on. As business correspondence, I am skeptical. Over 90% of the time, this is some form of spam that I neither wanted nor requested. Once in a while it is legit. Chances are fair that I'll accidentally toss the baby with the bathwater.
sillysomething@ anything.com If the silly something is in any way suggestive or explicit, to the junk/spam garbage collection it goes. Otherwise, if the part after the @ is a company name, then this is, at best, suspicious. If what is after the @ sign is not a company name, then this should be personal, not business correspondence.
something@ almostsoundslegit.com These are often pseudo notifications from online services (like PayPal) or banks generally requesting you to update your records or something to do with your supposed account. These emails should never be opened, read or acted upon... especially don't click any embedded links or open any attachments. The links are probably designed to steal your personal information and the attachments are looking to wreck your computer. Sometimes it can be difficult recognize a phony email or website address from a real one. If you think the email might be legit and it asks you to click a link, open a browser window and manually type the web address (don't use copy and paste). If there's nothing on the website that relates to the content of the email, the email was probably faked.
The moral of the story is that your email address is very much the same thing as the return address you'd put on an envelope. Business correspondence belongs in a business envelope. If your email address looks more personal than professional, talk to us. For much less than the cost of printing good business stationery, you can easily have an email address like: yourname@ yourcompany.com.