How To Spot An Email Scam (Phishing)

iPhone Mail app with two notifications. Email scams are a common tactic used by scammers.

Written by: Jay H.

Email scams (phishing) are a common tactic used by scammers to install malware on a victim’s computer or access sensitive information such as passwords, usernames, and credit cards and banking information. Although some email scams are quite obvious to spot, others can be well-disguised by scammers to look legitimate. Here are some easy ways to spot an email scam and protect yourself from scammers:

Check the Relevance

Scammers send enticing messages with (fake) extravagant offers to get you to click on links. They may say you have won something, but have you entered any competitions? They claim you have a parcel to pick up, but did you order anything? Ensure whether the messages you receive are actually applicable to you or not. It is improbable that you would win a prize without you remembering entering a competition. So, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

An email claims that a parcel has been delivered, a common email scam.

Check the Spelling & Grammar

Many of the emails sent originate from non-English speaking countries, and often there will be spelling and grammar errors apparent to native English speakers. Review the email carefully,  looking for grammar, spelling errors, and odd sentences. This is usually a sure way to spot an email scam.

Misspelled sentence of "Surprise for you!". Misspells are a good way to spot an email scam.

Check the Links

Most scam emails contain a link that the scammer wants you to click on. Oftentimes, the displayed text for the hyperlink will not match the URL it will direct you to. Therefore, hover your cursor over the link to display the actual URL. Then, make sure it is from a legitimate website and is relevant to the email you are receiving. As a general rule of thumb, to be completely safe, avoid clicking on links from unsolicited emails to ensure you do not fall victim to a scam.

Cursor hovering a hyperlink for example of the URL text. This is a good method to spot an email scam.

Check the Sender

Anyone can change their display name to be anything in an email; however, it is harder to change the email they send from. Check the email displayed beside the sender’s name-is it a legitimate email from a legitimate website? Would the email’s contents normally be from that sender? Often, scammers use gibberish emails from unrecognizable sites. So, check the sender to ensure their legitimacy. Please note that it is possible to spoof the email address. Use this method in conjunction with the others, and if you are still uncertain, don’t open anything in the email.

Example of the email address beside a sender's name. A good way to spot an email scam.


Don’t Get Scammed

Using the aforementioned techniques will help spot email scams before you become a victim. Although most email providers have measures to filter automatically and flag junk emails, some scam emails can still get through. Be cautious of unexpected emails and report suspicious emails to your email provider.

If you’re uncertain about whether an email is legitimate or not, contact the sender through legitimate channels to verify whether it is legitimate or not. For instance, contact Apple through its website: If, for example, you were asked to send a payment by an executive, contact them through phone or in-person to verify.

Consider working with experts to create a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy for you and your business.

To learn more about cybersecurity issues, check out our other posts.

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