We’ve all been there, wondering if an email we just opened is legitimate or if it is just a phony. Luckily, if you know how to look for the right clues, you will be able to recognize malicious emails and prevent yourself from getting scammed.

Here are the top things to look for in these emails along with how to stop them from hitting your inbox in the first place.

Why You Should Investigate

Spam. Phishing. Malware. These words all create the same thing…trouble. According to Spam Laws, there are 14.5 billion spammy messages sent every day (45% of all emails)! Not only can these types of email be annoying and troublesome, they can also cost you a lot of money if you are tricked into giving your personal information or access to your computer to the wrong person.

Because of those reasons, it’s important to investigate each email you receive (not just the obviously suspicious ones) so you can protect yourself.


Uncovering the Clues

Even the best investigator can not always know if an email is bad, but there are quite a few clues that can be easily uncovered if you are aware of them.

Check the Domain

Even if an email is sent from a company you recognize or patronize, it doesn’t mean they actually emailed you. Check the email address to see if it looks suspicious. For example, if the address says it’s from your bank but the email domain isn’t your bank’s, it might look like accountservices@secure.com rather than accountservices@yourbank.org.

Your Name Isn’t Used

When a company sends an email to its customers, they know and use their names. For example, if you received an email from a company but it is addressed with “Dear Valuable Customer,” then it is probably not tied to the actual company at all and you should consider it to be a scam. This doesn’t mean every email with your name in it can be trusted, but it is still a good rule to follow.


Look for Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

Legitimate messages rarely contain spelling or grammar errors. If there are any, you can bet it didn’t come from a reputable source.

Ignore Attachments

Just because there is an attachment in the email doesn’t give it credibility. It is highly unusual for a reputable organization to send you an attachment unless it’s a document you have specifically requested.


Beware of Urgent or Threatening Language

Invoking a sense of urgency or fear is a common phishing tactic. If the subject line includes anything about your account being suspended or there being an unauthorized login attempt, you can bet it is fake.

If any of the above clues are present in an email or if you just don’t feel right about it, don’t click on it or any of its links or attachments. Never send personal information or money to anyone via email.

What to Do Next

In addition to ignoring and deleting the suspicious email, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself in the future:

  • Mark it as “spam”. This can typically be done by clicking a red flag icon or by choosing “Mark as spam” in the toolbar.
  • Report it to your email provider.
  • Submit a US FTC Complaint Form.
  • Change your email settings to automatically delete or move suspected junk mail to a spam folder.
  • Install security and antivirus software.

As always, use your best judgement when assessing a potential email scam. There are many real business that are often associated with scams, like ACN. In reality this is not the case.

By just doing a little investigation, you can uncover the truth and find out if you are actually being scammed.