For many people, differentiating between legitimate emails and scam emails is becoming an increasingly difficult proposition. At present, scam artists are adept at fooling people into thinking that an email message comes from an official source such as a bank or service provider or even from a friend. But there are ways to separate real messages from scams. Here are just three important things to consider when analyzing an email from a potentially unknown source.
1. Does the Email Come From a Legitimate Website?
If you’re getting a real email from your bank, there will be several clues as to that email’s veracity. For one thing, an email from a legitimate banking institution will almost certainly come from a legitimate website. Accounts departments of banking institutions or government agencies will not send you emails from popular email services such as Gmail or Yahoo.
Secondly, institutions like banks will never ask you to send privileged information such as bank routing numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers via email. Scam artists ask for this information in order to gain access to your bank account information or other credit lines. Such information should not be given out through email or through text messages. When in doubt about a message’s veracity, call your bank and ask if they have sent you a message.
It is also worth considering that many scammers in this day and age will ask you to download software or other applications to your phone or computer from an email attachment. These unsolicited applications and programs should never be downloaded under any circumstances: Oftentimes, scammers seek to trick people into downloading spyware or key-loggers that will enable the scammers to glean personal financial information or passwords from the computers or phones of victims.
2. Does the Email Ask For Some Sort of Direct Payment or Donation?
Increasingly, scammers are trying out new methods of bilking money out of unsuspecting people. Usually, these emails prey on generous individuals or individuals who may be sympathetic to a particular cause. For example, scammers will often claim to be a member of a church or charity that requires donations for important charitable services. In truth, individuals who work for legitimate charities or church organizations do not send out random emails to people they do not know asking for direct payments to their organizations. Legitimate charities have established channels for accepting donations.
If you don’t know the person or cannot verify their credentials, in other words, you should be aware that they may be a scam artist posing as a charity worker or church leader. Unfortunately, scammers are not above using religion or charity as a ruse for stealing money from kindhearted people.
3. Is the Email Automatically Sent to a Spam Filter?
Fortunately, most major email services these days employ spam filters to help people avoid phishing scams. This is not to say that all messages that end up in your email account’s spam box are illegitimate; however, a message that ends up getting channeled through a spam filter may have been flagged by an email service provider with good reason. For example, messages that have been reported by other users as phishing scams often come with a warning from providers like Gmail or Yahoo. When such warnings are given, as with all suspicious messages, it is important to proceed with caution!