Have you ever been a victim of email scams? If you’re lucky and haven’t encountered such a case, here is a good example of what happens.
You receive an email, possibly from a friend you trust. Upon opening it, you get a clickable link and as expected, click on it. However, you realize that it has redirected you to a malicious website or a page that fills your desktop with pornography or annoying adverts.
This is a very common occurrence on the internet today where email scams are the order of the day. As such, if hackers and malicious people happen to get access to your email address, you could be in for a rude shock as they try to steal information from you. While a majority of their emails are downright easy to notice, some tend to look very legitimate and thus more difficult to tell.
Below are top 5 telltale signs to help you differentiate between legit and illegitimate emails.
1. Does the email refer you by your name?
In most cases, emails from hackers hardly refer to you by your name since most cannot tell the recipient’s name from the address. This is largely because they get the lists without identification. As such, one of the best ways of telling whether an email is coming from a legitimate source is by having it mention you by name. However, this is not an outright method of telling about an email’s legitimacy and thus extra caution is still needed.
Nearly all legitimate organizations such as PayPal will always refer to you using your official names or ID in their email. However, scams rarely know your name. Others just choose to ignore using the name since they send their emails in bulk thereby meaning it’s difficult to address each recipient by their name.
All in all, you’ll still need to learn other tactics used by email scammers since some are intelligent enough to address you by your name.
2. Do the “From” emails mismatch?
A majority of the scam emails used on the internet today appear legitimate but a cross check can often tell their illegitimacy. One of the most effective ways to tell it is by checking the “From” email addresses. A good example would be something that comes as paypall.com or epaypal.com while purporting to come from PayPal.com. To be honest, some of these emails may be difficult to differentiate from the real ones especially if you’re not keen enough.
To thwart such scamming attempts, it is important to go deeper and countercheck the properties of the received email. For example, if you’re using an email client such as Outlook, all you need is to right click the email and select the “properties” option. With this, you will get various details regarding the originating server. If the entries provide an address different from the one that originally sent the message, then you may want to treat such an email as malicious.
3. Are there links in the message?
As a rule of thumb, it is advisable that you always avoid clicking any link included in an email address that you’re unsure of its legitimacy. This is because it’s possibly one of the most common ways in which computers today get malware installed in them. While some links appear genuine, you are better off avoiding clicking them altogether since they could redirect you to malicious websites.
Thankfully, a majority of software and browsers today will quickly notify you about the link right before you even clicking on it. On Outlook, for example, you can get information regarding where a particular link points to at the bottom part of your screen once you hover your mouse over the link. This is the same case with most browsers such as Opera, Google Chrome, and Firefox Mozilla. As such, you might find a link purporting to come from Facebook but upon checking it well, shows that it points to a page like http://unknownsite.com/facebook.com/. If you find such, then know that such is a fake link.
Additionally, if you get a suspicious email from an institution such as your bank, consider typing the address into your preferred browser by hand. Often, you will receive another email notifying you about an arising issue with your login details. If so, you should just visit the institution’s official website instead of using the specified link.
4. Does the email sound professional?
Most organizations today hardly send plain emails that lack images or logos. However, this does not mean that scammers won’t use images and logos from organizations to make their emails appear legitimate. For example, it is not uncommon to find an email purporting to come from PayPal containing the institution’s logos and even links that resemble the real ones used by the company. However, most of these emails will still refer to you as “Dear Customer” which is against PayPal’s culture that entails using your official names when addressing you.
On the other hand, you may find emails that contain extremely poor grammar which is another sign of false emails. The main reason for such is because most of these emails originate from non-English speaking countries.
5. Are you being prompted to provide personal information?
A majority of email scammers pretend to know you but still go ahead to request you to provide them with your personal information. A perfect example is when you receive an email telling you that you’ve won a certain lottery but still insist that you send them your personal information so that they can send you the money or check. If you are unaware of such trickeries, then you may find your sensitive sold.
On the other hand, you may receive emails that appear completely legit asking you to verify some of your vital information. However, always take caution in such cases since no legitimate company will ask you to verify sensitive information via an email.
It is a no-brainer that emails are some of the most commonly used forms of communication today. Unfortunately, the avenue is now also one of the most targeted as far as scammers and other malicious people are concerned. As such, it is important you take extra caution before opening that link or email that has been sent to you from a suspicious person or “organization”.