As we’ve discussed in some previous posts about online scams, the most common ways that scammers will attempt to insert themselves into your life is through email. Nowadays, it seems that everyone is receiving the bulk of their financial information in their email inbox. Banking statements, credit card statements, utility bills, mortgage statements – nearly all of these pop up monthly in your gmail or Yahoo! account. So, with so much important information being transmitted over the web, how can you tell the legitimate emails from the fake ones?
1. Huge Numbers of Recipients
If a scammer has compromised someone’s email account one of the first things they’ll often do is to blast malware-containing emails out to that user’s entire contact list. Because of this, the scammers will often have additional compromised email addresses at their disposal before the originally compromised account owner even knows what’s going on. If you happen to receive a message from someone with dozens of other people copied in as well, be very wary of clicking any links within the email itself.
2. Huge Number of Links or Hidden Links
The ultimate goal of most email scams is to have the recipients click on a link that will either reveal private information or install malware onto the recipient’s system. So, if you receive an email with more links than written copy, be careful. Often times with scam emails the entire body of the email will just be one giant link. Thankfully, many web browsers like Chrome and Mozilla will allow you to preview any link before actually clicking. Simply scroll your mouse over the link in question and the browser will show you the full URL that that link is directing you to – generally either next to the cursor arrow or toward the bottom, left-hand side of the browser window. If you don’t recognize the destination link, DO NOT CLICK.
3. Grammar and Spelling Gaffs
Not many people will write grammatically flawless emails – especially if they’re in a hurry. But scam emails that originate in foreign countries will often contain obvious and uncommon spelling and grammar errors. Misspellings of a company’s full name, everyday words, and sporadic capitalization should all be red flags if the email in question is being presented as a formal communication from a business. When in doubt, call the company or individual that supposedly sent you the email to confirm whether or not it was actually sent by them.
4. Obvious Get-Rich-Quick Schemes
Anytime someone sends out a message that promises ways for you to get rich quick, attract any sexual partner you desire, or increase the size of your anatomy are obvious ploys that pray on individual insecurities. Like countless relatives and parents have taught you: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
5. Strange or Inappropriate Requests
Rarely will your best friend or sister shoot you an email to ask for a few thousand dollars, or to float them some cash for an emergency medical procedure. Scammers know that some people are likely to throw caution to the wind if they believe that their loved ones are in danger or dire need. If you get an email from someone close to you that requests anything that seems out of place, take a few minutes to call them directly and see if the situation is truly as it seems. Not only could you save yourself some time and money, but they’ll likely appreciate the call and knowing you were so concerned.
The most powerful weapon you have in your arsenal to combat email scams is common sense. Most of the scenarios listed above are designed to outright trick you, or blow away your everyday defenses by presenting dangerous and outlandish scenarios. Taking the time to stop, think, and confirm anything that seems amiss can help ensure that your next suspicious emails stops at the inbox and never reaches your bank accounts.