Does this scene look familiar to you: You checked your inbox hoping to find an email from a colleague at work only to receive a barrage of email spam that you never remembered signing up for? Millions of phishing emails are sent to innocent victims around the world every day, and while many of them are far-out ridiculous to be taken seriously, some are clever enough that anyone can be deceived at first glance. So how can you tell a legitimate from phishing email? While there is no one single approach that works for every situation, there are signs you can look out for when digging through your inbox. Take note of these 10 tips when checking your inbox in order to identify email spam.
Tips to Identify Email Spam
1. Check Out the Subject Line to Identify Email Spam
Spammers try their best to look genuine, but their subject line can give away their true intentions. You might have come across emails that promote things like home loans, lottery and health products which are easy to spot on since they usually start with sensational headings like “Buy Now While Supplies Lasts”, “Big Savings”, “You Just Won $1 Million!”. Phishing emails can also be identified with headings such as “Verify Your Account” or “Immediate Action Required”.
You can just ignore it or delete them without opening. On the other hand, you should check messages without a title carefully as they could be important emails sent hastily without a subject line.
2. It Has Grammar and Spelling Errors
Another telltale sign that an email is not legitimate is when you see it with obvious mistakes in spelling and grammar. Some are easy to identify: “ALERT: Someone is Accesssing Your Account” while others need some close inspection: “Best Prices Today. Clicked Here to Get Huge Discounts!”.
Any authentic organization would have their editors run a spell check or proofread their marketing newsletters before they send them out. So always examine the message for any misspellings and poor grammar before accepting it as valid.
3. The Email Message Contains Suspicious URLs
If there are some links embedded inside the body of an email message, don’t click it. Do it just to be safe. Instead, hover your mouse on the link and you should see the real hyperlinked address (some email software may not support this feature). If it doesn’t match, then it could probably lead you to a fraudulent site. You can also go directly to the said account on a separate tab or window and see if there is anything wrong.
4. Personal Salutations are Generic and Unclear
Is the email sent with a generic salutation “Dear Valued Customer?” or worse, “To whom it may concern?“. Then better keep your eyes open. Legitimate companies would always address their customers with their full name to sound professional and credible.
5. Phishing Spam Emails Use Deceptive Domain Names
Online scammers understand and often succeeded with their crooked tricks because they know that a lot of people are still not aware how domain names work. Domain names are organized and composed of different parts starting from right to left. Let’s use www.vodien.com as an example. To the far right is the suffix com which is the parent domain or top-level domain, vodien is the mid-level domain, and to the far left, www is the third-level domain that identifies a specific host server.
So, if you see a domain name like this: www.vodien.worldhackers.com, then it clearly does not originate from vodien.com domain name because the real second-level domain is referencing worldhackers.com not vodien. A phishing artist would simply use second-level domains that spoofs legitimate companies (e.g. Vodien or GoDaddy) to make it appear more authentic. So, if you’re not careful, you could fall for their trap.
6. It Asks for Personal Information without Apparent Reason
A trusted company will never ask their clients for personal information through email for no specific reason. If you have a bank account, your bank should already know your account number since they have that information in their database.
7. Check Out the Signature to Identify Email Spam
If you don’t see any information about the email sender or ways to contact their company, or if the information in the signature does not match the email address, that may indicate that it is a fraudulent email. Legitimate businesses should provide proper contact details so that people can easily contact them when they have questions.
8. Check the File Extension of the Attachment
Attachments from malicious emails can contain malware and viruses that infect your computer or device. Malware can potentially corrupt files on your computer or steal your usernames and passwords. Look out for attachments with extensions such as .exe, .jar or .ace. There may be attachments in unsuspecting extensions such as .xlsx, .pdf, .doc and etc. However, the links within the common document files may contain links directing you phishing websites that require you to enter personal information.
Be careful and try not to download or even open attachment if you suspect the nature of the email.
9. Email Is from Unfamiliar Locations
An email sent from somewhere you don’t live or you don’t know anyone from that place, is a major red flag. The country of origin should be the first level of check to determine if the email is genuine or not.
10. Identify Email Spam with Emails that Ask for Money or Donations
You should treat any emails that request for money or donations as suspicious until proven otherwise. Thousands of email accounts get hacked every day. So be wary if one day you get an email from a friend who lost all her money while vacationing in Europe. If you are concerned about your friend, call her instead to verify her situation.
Scam artists can also pose as a charitable organization that asks their victims to make donations through their phishing website where they steal bank or credit card numbers. If you want to donate to a charity, make sure to send your donations directly to the website and never through such emails.
Hope this tutorial helps you in the process of Identifying an email spam. From now on, you need to train hawk eyes at email spam, since spammers have some convincing tricks up their sleeve. So be careful about your cyber security and try to protect yourself against such cyber crimes.
As you know, the things which we have mentioned are only some of the tips out of many other ones for identifying an email spam. If you know or have experienced some other tips, we will be happy to share with us in the comment box.