Today: Nov 21 , 2018

Email Red Flags
Featured

12 January 2018   Kristina Abbey | CompuTime

Wait! Do you really want to open that email?

How to tell if an email is trustworthy or spam.

You’re sorting through your email, cleaning out your spam folder and deleting several emails that you’ve been meaning to delete for a while. You are zipping through the process and feeling pretty good when suddenly you get a notification. A new email has landed in your inbox. You look at the sender, it looks somewhat familiar but something just doesn’t seem quite right. The subject line looks a little funny too.

Email is a common everyday item that we use all the time. Whether it be work or personal, email has become an important and necessary part of day-to-day life. We all get lots of emails daily and sometimes it’s hard to know which emails are ones you can trust enough to open and which you should trash or mark as spam.

For the most part, our spam filter catches those less than reputable emails and clears them away for us, but some do slip through the cracks and make it into our inbox. So how can you know if the email you received is to be trusted or not? Let’s look at the various parts of an email and what you can look for to determine if the email is one you should consider marking as spam.

The Sender

In considering whether you should open an email or just send it to the spam folder the first thing to consider is who the sender is. Ask yourself, do you know who the sender is? Or is the sender someone I was expecting to hear from, either through a communication you initiated or a referral from a friend?  Also consider whether the sender’s email address is from a suspicious domain, if you don’t feel comfortable opening the email, then the best idea is not to open it. Scam emails often have different names to trick the recipient. Check the address before assuming something is true (an email from your bank wouldn’t have the email address contact@lightsaberduel.com). 

Some companies (like Microsoft) will never contact you to notify you of a virus or issue with your computer. You’ve purchased their product, they’ve no need to contact you further. One last thing to consider is if the email is an unexpected or unusual email with an embedded hyperlink or an attachment and the sender is someone you haven’t communicated with recently.

While reviewing the sender isn’t a foolproof safeguard, they are a good starting point to protecting yourself from email scammers. But be sure to consider the other parts of the email as well.

The Recipient

After looking over and considering the sender of the email, also review the recipient or “To” as to whom the email is addressed. Were you cc’d on an email sent to one or more people you don’t personally know? Did you get an email that was sent to an odd mix of people (the recipients might seem random but perhaps everyone’s last name starts with the same letter)? If you get am email with many recipients but yet the email is directed toward one person, your scam sense should be on high alert. Bottom line, just be cautious when considering that email when there are many people addressed on the recipient line and of course this ties into the “From” line as well. If someone seems fishy, it’s a good chance it is fishy, follow your gut on this one.

Subject Line

After reviewing the “To” and “From” parts of the email, now review the “Subject” line. This gives the recipient of the email a good idea of what the email is about in just a few words. This is also one that can give a good red flag on a possible scam. Perhaps it is an email from a company saying they are replying to your request, but you never put in a request. That would be a red flag that this might not be an email to open. Does the email subject line and content match? If not, it might be a concern. Is the subject line blank? You might send emails without subjects to your friends regularly but if an email pops up from an unrecognizable address with no subject be careful. Note, subject lines like “Fwd: private” or “Free to Look!” are major red flags. If you have no idea what you are opening, you might want to just leave it alone.

Attachments

When reviewing your email, you notice there is an attachment on the email. Was the attachment something you weren’t expecting? Be wary if this is the case, especially if the email is from an unknown or unfamiliar sender. If the attachment doesn’t make sense in relation to the emails content that is another red flag; avoid opening these types of attachments.

Another big warning signal would be an attachment to an email from a company stating you have a refund or an overdue bill and they want you to click the link. Often these emails come from a sender saying it is a follow up email from a conversation you had or an inquiry you had made. Those are big indicators and those attachments should not be opened.

Hyperlinks

Always exercise caution when clicking email hyperlinks. If you receive an email with only links in the email and no other information, you should just mark that email as spam. Whatever you do, do NOT open those links! If you get an email and the link in the message makes sense, take a moment to hover over the link without clicking. The web address that appears should be the same as the typed link. If it is a link to a different website than what it is named, that is a huge red flag, don’t click on it.

Pay close attention to spelling on the hyperlink. Some will send a misspelling that is easy to miss. For instance,www.bankofarnerica.com, it might look normal but if you look closely, the “m” in America is actually an “r” and “n”. So just be careful. Overall, when in doubt, don’t click the link.

The Email Body

There are several things to watch for in the body of the email that would be warning signs of a scam email and one you might want to just send to the trash instead of reading. You will want to watch for things like spelling/grammar, strange or sensitive data requests, urgent messages, guarantees and extreme enthusiasm. Coming from an unknown or unfamiliar sender, these things are red flags of a potentially malicious scam email. So be careful!

Strange/Sensitive Data Requests - if someone is asking you to send sensitive information (credit card numbers, social security numbers, passwords, etc.) do not reply to the email! This one is a little easier to recognize: if someone asks you to help with medical assistance or writes “Help me cheat...” it’s just not legit! Ignore those emails.

Urgent Messages - People don’t typically use email to send urgent messages of an emergency nature. If you get an email that claims a situation is a matter of life or death (or a desperate person who needed money wired now), it’s safe to assume the sender wouldn’t be targeting you, a stranger, in the first place. As you know, friends or family will call before emailing.

Surefire Guarantees Intense Enthusiasm - Always be leery of promises or guarantees. Offers that seem too good to be true usually are. All caps emails or overly enthusiastic emails (I JUST LOST 45lbs W/ THE X-FIT fitness program!!!) are a good indicator that the information isn’t what it seems. You should know that nothing on the Internet is guaranteed. Promises to boost your sex life or quick money via working from home should never be taken seriously.

Spelling and Grammar - You don’t have to be a member of the grammar police to note odd mistakes in scam emails. Look out for questionable syntax or major typos, especially if the email supposedly comes from a reputable company or bank. Also watch for scammers that purposely misspell things to avoid your spam filter, such as “V1agr@” instead of “Viagra” (You probably shouldn’t be buying Viagra via email anyway.)

Overall, trust your gut, if something doesn’t look right don’t open it especially those links. Not only are there scammers trying to get your information, there are malicious software in those attachments or links. Open one of those and you could end up with a ransomware, virus, or encryption software on your computer and the results can be downright upsetting.

Should you be unfortunate enough to end up with an issue on your computer as a result of opening an email, a link, or an attachment that maybe you should have ignored (it happens to the best of us), CompuTime is here to help. As a local business, CompuTime has been around for over twenty years and are ready to help you get your computer running well again.

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