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The Difference Between Spam & Phishing: How to Protect Yourself

< Back to Articles | Time to Read: 5 minutes

Spam mail is one of life’s great annoyances. From extended-warranty phone calls to letters saying you’re pre-qualified, it’s hard to know what you need to pay attention to and what is junk mail. This is especially true when you have your credit checked to buy a home. Suddenly there are more phone calls, emails, and even snail mail than you know what to do with! Phishing is just as annoying and dangerous. Stick around as we discuss the difference between spam and phishing and how to keep yourself safe from both.


Spam: Irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the internet to a large number of recipients.

Phishing: The fraudulent practice of sending emails pretending to be from reputable companies to obtain an individual's personal information, such as passwords and credit/debit card numbers.


It's important to understand the difference between spam and phishing. While spam is frustrating, a phishing scam can impact your life through monetary loss or stolen identity. This means when you receive “junk mail” it doesn’t do anything to your day-to-day life other than take up space in your email whereas a phishing scam can be a fraud crime that impacts your credit, finances, and more.

Now that you understand the difference between spam and phishing, we want to expand on the different types of spam out there and how they differ from fraudulent activity through phishing scams.

Types of Spam

  • Email: Spam email is any email that has gone out in bulk in order to sell something.
  • Snail Mail: When you think of the types of spam that come in the mail, you usually think of anything saying you’re pre-qualified. Once a lender pulls your credit, you’ll begin to receive many offers for loans and credit cards.
  • Text: You bought one shirt online, and now your text messages are flooded with offers to save more when you spend more at that site. This is an example of spam mail through text message.
  • Phone Calls: Most cell phones now have an option to silence these calls, but sometimes they still get through! Voicemail spam is when you’re told that your car’s extended warranty is about to expire, or worse, that the IRS is calling about taxes you owe.          

The spam listed above is considered junk mail. Anytime you do something online like check your credit, enter your email address for a coupon, or order food, you run the risk of getting an overwhelming amount of emails from vendors you may or may not have interacted with. This is because buying something or requesting information sometimes means you’ve opted into a newsletter or to receive marketing information. And depending on the company’s privacy policy, there’s also the possibility your information could be sold to different databases.

As infuriating as spam mail can be, there’s no need to fret over it. With privacy laws and regulations in place, there are ways to opt out of most forms of spam.

Here are some tips and tricks to avoiding these pesky messages:

  • While many spam emails will go directly to a junk folder, there are many that slip through. In that case, we recommend unsubscribing as soon as you see it. The unsubscribe button is usually found at the bottom of the email or newsletter, and it allows you to modify the subscription settings or opt out entirely.
  • For “pre-qualified” snail mail, it’s a bit more work than just opting out. Creditors are allowed to access your information to send out offers due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Therefore, to opt out for good, you need to fill out the hard copy of a form and mail it in to whichever address the credit bureaus provide. This goes for lenders as well. When your credit is pulled, some lenders have access to your information through different databases and can contact you whenever they receive an alert. It’s important to note that reputable lenders will listen when you ask them to stop contacting you and will remove you from their lists.
  • For text messages, there is always the opportunity to opt out as well. Usually, it’s as easy as replying STOP to a message, but if doesn’t work, we recommend reaching out to the business’s customer service team for additional help.

Now that you have ways to combat silly spam mail, it’s time to discuss something not so silly: phishing. In our digital driven world, it’s important to understand the reality of identity theft and how to protect yourself from it.

Phishing can happen in many ways, and without you even realizing it. By simply clicking on a link or opening an email you can become a victim of fraud. This is why we recommend always double checking the email address and the website address before opening or clicking on anything. It’s also important to be careful when utilizing public WiFi or hotspots as scammers can use them to steal your information.

Another form of phishing, and one of the easiest to spot, is anyone asking for personal information or money transfers via email or text message. While many transactions can take place digitally, your loan officer or creditor will not be asking for any information or money randomly in an email. There will be background information, phone calls, and many other steps taken before that would happen. This goes for any emails or phone calls from people claiming to be the government as well. The IRS is not going to call you saying they have a warrant for your arrest for back taxes without having had many other forms of contact with you first.

Keeping your personal information safe isn't something you should take lightly, and it's not something we take lightly here at Churchill Mortgage either. We pride ourselves on keeping you and your information safe through every step of the home buying process, all while keeping things simple and accessible for you. It's one of the many ways we set ourselves apart from other lenders. If you're looking to purchase or refinance a home, or just learn about your options, give us a call. 

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Es probable que su transacción de préstamo hipotecario suceda en inglés. Por medio de esta pregunta, solicitamos información para determinar si existen comunicaciones disponibles a su servicio, en su idioma preferido. Sírvase tener en cuenta: posiblemente NO hay comunicaciones disponibles en su idioma preferido.

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