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Sometimes, it's spam, and sometimes, it's not, but there is no need to be scared when you receive subscription notices that you didn't sign up for. Follow the general steps for staying safe online and you'll be fine.

Dear Leo, For the first time since I started using a PC, I'm scared. I do not exactly know how obtained my email address and they asked me to sign up for their service. I've never heard of them and I don't know what to do. Here's a portion of their email: "Dear user, thank you for signing up with the most comprehensive Cloud email backup solution, etc." (I'm going to skip most of the message just to avoid giving them more advertising). Should I ignore them? You advised in past blogs that we should backup our email. As I'm not really a computer expert, I don't know how to backup email. I use Yahoo email. I have Windows XP and I browse with Mozilla Firefox.

In this excerpt from Answercast #30, I look at reasons why you may be getting subscription notifications; I get them all the time and don't worry. Bottom line, though, is you don't need to pay for a service to backup your email.

Unknown services

So first of all, don't be scared. That part's easy.

There's a couple of ways this kind of stuff happens. For the record, I see this kind of stuff all of the time. I'll suddenly get a message from some random service welcoming me to the service and saying, "Here's where you need to go," or "Click on this link to activate," or even better, "So-and-so has made you a friend," or "They sent you a message," and of course, so-and-so was somebody that I've never, ever heard of.

There's a whole raft of these kinds of messages, of emails. I hesitate to call them scams, but sometimes, they are.

Sometimes, what you're seeing is a marketing message. It's a way to encourage you to join that service; like they'll fool you into thinking that it's something you had signed up for... when, of course, clearly it's not.

It's also a very common spam. It's also one way that other people sometimes mess with you.

Signed up for unknown services

Now I realize that because I am a semi-public figure on the internet, and at least one or two of my email addresses are public knowledge, people have signed me up for things that I don't want, or I don't care about. That certainly could be another scenario that's happened here.

If you're getting spam, just any kind of spam, what that really means is that your email address is out there for spammers to use. It's out there somehow. And as a result, these kinds of messages can happen.

These kinds of messages are spam. These kinds of messages are very, very safe to just ignore, or mark as spam, so that you won't see the rest.

Backing up email

Now as to how to backup your email, I believe I have an article on how to Backup Yahoo email.

The right approach to do that is to install a desktop client, a desktop client, like Outlook or Thunderbird. Have that, then, connect to your mail service using either POP3 or IMAP.

IMAP copies and syncs emails

In Yahoo's case, unless you're paying for Yahoo Plus, IMAP is the only one that will work for you.

That will cause a copy of your email to be downloaded to your machine, which you can then backup with your machine.

POP3 downloads emails

If you use POP3, I will caution you; POP3 will download your email. In other words, it will move it from your web-based service to your PC. You'll see it disappear from the website and it will show up in the desktop email program unless you specify "leave a copy on the server".

For backup purposes, IMAP is actually kind of useful if you don't want to use the desktop program to actually access your email and instead continue using your web service for your email.

But, that's the basic idea behind backing up your email. You don't need another service; you don't need to sign up for anything. Just use a desktop email program and have it configured to go grab your email as it comes in.

Article C5528 - June 28, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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