You've probably seen it before... An e-mail has made its way into your inbox, but something doesn't feel quite right. Perhaps it's the wording, or maybe it's simply asking for information that you wouldn't normally provide like your debit card number or Social Security number. Unfortunately, fraudulent e-mails do reach our inboxes, and it's something you need to know how to identify. Here are five ways you can spot a potentially fraudulent e-mail.
1. Who sent the e-mail?
Check the e-mail address of the sender. Often times it won't match the identity of the person or organization that sent the e-mail. The URL/e-mail address might be misspelled or an entirely different address altogether. Lookout for e-mails claiming to be from government agencies such as the IRS or FBI — this is a tactic often used to scare victims into complying with the demands of the e-mail.
2. What kind of information are they asking for?
Look out for unusual requests that wouldn't normally come through an e-mail. Fraudulent e-mails are often looking to steal private information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, or other information that may seem out of the ordinary. It may also include things like asking for money or help surrounding unusual circumstances.
3. Why are you receiving this e-mail?
Think about why you're receiving this e-mail in the first place. For example, if the e-mails claim you may have won a contest or prize, but you never entered, it's probably fraudulent. This strategy is used to try to get victims to turn over their personal information or pay now with the promise of a prize in the future.
4. Are there attachments on this e-mail?
If you're suspicious of an e-mail that also includes a strange attachment, do NOT download or open the attachment. It could potentially contain a virus or malware that could be harmful to your computer or mobile phone.
5. Does something feel off?
Trust your instincts. Scan the e-mail and look for things that feel or look odd. This could be misspellings or typos, mismatching URLs, threats, bold claims, or something you'd normally receive from the person or business that's sending you the e-mail.
What should you do if you think you've received a fraudulent e-mail?
If you aren't sure if an e-mail is fraudulent or not, call the company or person sending the e-mail. Look up the phone number – do NOT use on the number in the e-mail. A quick phone call can easily verify if the message was sent by them or not. Or, simply delete the e-mail.