Every time I open my email, it seems there is another attempt to try and fool me into believing they have $3 million for me, or they want to help me renew my domain name for my website, or my bank is asking me to verify my account before they close it, or Microsoft is going to close my email account permanently if I don’t click on a link to make sure it’s me using it. These are all methods that scammers use to try to steal our money or our personal information. Make no mistake, email scams are more prevalent than ever before.
Before I begin, I want to tell you a rule you should always follow, and it is this: never click on any link contained in any email. Not even if you know the sender. Email links are one of the most dangerous methods used by hackers to steal from you.
There is almost always a work-around, so you can get the information that the sender is trying to get you to view. For example, if Aunt Suzy wants you to see a picture she posted on Facebook, instead of clicking on the link she sent, you should log into your Facebook account, go to Suzy’s Facebook wall and look at all she has there until you find the picture she wants you to view. By the way, Facebook email links can be very dangerous because they are easy targets for hackers to embed viruses and malware inside.
If Uncle Fred has just found the latest and greatest website for fat-reduction around the mid-section cream, instead of clicking on the link, you should open Microsoft’s Edge or Apple’s Safari and type the website address directly into the address bar and find it that way. Again, I recommend you never click on a link from an email.
If you get an email from Outlook, Gmail, or another email provider, and they want you to verify your email account by clicking on the link, don’t do it. First of all, email providers do not have you verify your account. If you are uncertain, either contact them by opening up a new email and sending it to their support team, or call them on the phone and see if they indeed sent you an email verification.
Have you ever received an email from your bank asking you to verify your account? They don’t do this. Instead of clicking on the link, give them a call. They will confirm whether the email is authentic or not.
As good as it sounds, nobody is going to contact you on behalf of your long-lost cousin and offer you $4 million, or some other ridiculous amount, for you to deposit into your bank account. Seriously, is there anyone that believes these are real? I hope not.
Another way to spot a fraudulent email is to look carefully at the email address of the sender. Remember, the last part of the email address after the “@” sign, tells you who the sender is. For example, if you see that it is: “email@example.com” you can reasonably assume that it is coming from someone at Wells Fargo. Make sure you read the email address carefully, because sometimes they’ll use an email address that is close to the real one, such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com.” In either case, I still wouldn’t trust any of these emails enough to open them or click on any links they contain. Instead, I would call Wells Fargo to see if the email is authentic and what they want.
Another important thing to look for in an email address is the very last part. If it contains a country code at the end, it is from outside the United States and you should not open it. As an example, if an email address ends with .ua, it is from the Ukraine, if it ends with .tr, it is from Turkey and so forth. The point is, look at the email address carefully and if there is a country code on the end, be careful before opening, unless you know what you are doing.
For 15 years, Scott Lindsay has helped tens of thousands of people better their skills, publishing more than 400 articles about Apple and Microsoft software, the computer and the Internet. You can reach Scott for comments or questions at ScottLindsay@live.com.