How To Recognize a Fake Email or Fraud
Surely you’ve heard in the news reports in recent years about fraudulent emails and online scams, but do you know how to spot one? The threat is only guaranteed to grow with the increased use of the Internet for everyday activities, from ordering groceries to paying electric bills.
Fake emails frequently appear to come from companies you normally do business with, which is how many victims are duped in the first place. There are a few hallmarks of these types of frauds that can help you to identify and avoid them fairly quickly, though – and here’s a list of the top 6:
1. They Use a Generic Greeting
Many times, a fraudulent email will send you a message with a generic greeting such as “Dear Sir/Madam,” “Dear User,” “Dear Customer,” or “Dear [your email address].” You can almost guarantee it’s safe to delete these types of emails without even reading them. Some email servers will automatically send them to your spam or junk box, but the fraudulent companies that send these types of messages are constantly finding ways to make it around your filters. Better safe than sorry, regardless of what the rest of the email tells you.
2.They Ask You to Click on a Link to a Fake Website
Never, ever click on any link sent through an email unless you are absolutely positive it’s legit. If it’s a company you normally do business with, it’s probably safe, but once you follow the link, check the address in your browser bar to make sure it looks right. For example, if company XYZ’s website is XYZ.com, scammers may change it to XYZ.biz, XYZ.com/it, etc. Anything that looks like it may be altered is a clue that you’re in the wrong place, and they’re probably trying to steal your information.
3.They Contain Unknown Attachments
If you receive an attachment you aren’t expecting, even if it’s from someone you think is a trustworthy source, make sure it’s what it says it is before opening. Some frauds will send malware or viruses in attachment form and try everything they can to get you to open it. Just don’t. If it comes from someone you know, contact them directly to make sure they really sent it to you and their email account wasn’t hacked. Hackers can send malicious attachments by stealing their information so it looks like you know the person the email came from.
4.They Contain a Threat or Sense of Urgency
Your hackles should go up immediately if you receive an email that does any of the following:
· Asks for money
· Tells you there is only X amount of time to respond/send money/verify information
· Threatens to report you to any official agency if you don’t act immediately or respond
· Threatens you personally or your family
Any of these tactics are cause for concern, and you should report it immediately to your email server and any company they are claiming to be affiliated with. Also check your Attorney General’s website for reporting instructions.
5.They Ask for Confidential Information
No legit company will ever ask you to verify log-in information, personal identifying information, account information or other sensitive information. If you receive this type of email, you can probably safely ignore it and send it to your junk folder. If it appears to come from a company you do business with, call them directly (at their public listing number, not a number sent through the possible fake email) to inquire about the information you’re being asked for.
6.They Come from a Company You Don’t Know
Some scammers buy email lists and trade information so you will receive fraudulent emails from a company you aren’t familiar with. They are often trying to sell a product or service, and even if it’s something you’re interested in, just know they’re probably trying to just get hold of your financial information for their own use. Always make sure websites you input financial information into have a current SSI certificate (a padlock symbol with the word “Secure” is typically in the browser bar), and never buy from an unreputable company.
If you have repeated issues with scam or fraudulent emails in your inbox, you may want to consider switching email servers to thwart the issue. At the very least, make sure your spam filter is always on, and never respond to any email message that fits the above categories. Fake emails are highly annoying but likely will never cease to exist, so if you’re going to use email for communicating, you need to stay abreast of the most modern tactics they use to get your information.