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While being one of the most useful business tools ever invented, email can also be a hinderance. Because of its generally open nature, when anyone can get an email address, criminals have taken their operations online in the form of email frauds or scams. This can be a big issue for business owners, and knowing how to determine if an email is legitimate or not is important.
Here’s five tips to help you spot email frauds or scams.
Look at the email address
One of the easiest ways to spot a fraudulent email or scam is by looking at the email address of the sender. Many credit card application scams use third party email services like Gmail or Yahoo. Some scammers go so far as to set up accounts in the name of the company e.g., AMEX_121@gmail.com.
Sophisticated scammers will actually try to copy the legitimate company’s email account – a practice called spoofing. They will usually have a few changes like a missing letter from the address, or an extra . added.
The easiest thing you can do is look for the sender’s site on the Internet. For example: You get an email from AMEX OPEN (American Express’s small business credit card) and notice that the sender’s email address just doesn’t look right. Go to Google and search for amex fraud. You’ll likely find the fraud page which tells you exactly how the company sends emails. If the sender is a smaller company, most of these will have email contact addresses right on the site, take a look and compare the two. If they are different, the email is likely a scam.
Look at the sender’s website
If you think an email is fraudulent, try looking up the website associated with the sender. Should you be unable to find the site, it’s likely a scam.
If you find a website, click through some pages to see if there is anything that looks out of place. For example a website selling a new financial service has pages with Coming Soon or you get errors when you try to load the page. If it looks fishy, it likely is – delete the email.
It would also be a good idea to go to archive.org’s Wayback Machine, copy and paste the website’s URL into the The Wayback Machine Search bar and hit Take me back. This will bring up previous versions of the website. If you see that the site in question was something completely different a few months to a year ago (e.g., it is a financial services page now, but six months ago it was a page selling prescription drugs), chances are high it’s a fraud.
Many scammers will put phone numbers into emails to make them look more legitimate. If you are unsure about whether this email is legitimate or not, why not try calling the number? Many scammers run more than one fraud operating at the same time and may answer the phone with another name, or not at all.
Similarly, if you call a local number of a supposedly small business and get routed directly to voicemail, it’s likely fraud.
Look carefully at the body of the message
The body of the email can also be a great way to suss out email scammers and potential fraud. Because many fraudulent emails originate outside of the major English speaking countries, there will often be language that just sounds different from the way people write in your area. One great example of this would be a line like ‘We wish to sell you a great product.’
You should also look for spelling errors, grammar mistakes or inconsistencies. While some fraudulent emails will have minor spelling inconsistencies, others will spell common words wrong. If you see mistakes like ‘our product are a great deals’, this should raise a warning flag.
Spelling and grammar errors are a part of business communication, so don’t expect a perfect email from all companies, especially if you see that the company is located overseas. It’s the emails with mistakes supposedly coming from companies in your area that should really raise alarm.
The sender asks for money or passwords
It’s kind of an unwritten rule that when sending out emails you never ask for a person’s credit card number or account passwords. Banks, large companies and many social networks will never ask you for passwords or account information, credit card numbers, pin codes, etc of any kind over email. If you notice that an email selling something asks for you to reply with a credit card details so you can make a purchase, it’s best to delete the email as it’s likely a fraud.
Email fraud is a big deal, and unfortunately it will likely become even more common in the near future. This means you should be able to spot potentially fraudulent emails. If you think an email is a scam, it’s best to just delete it immediately. Don’t respond or forward it to colleagues or employees. If you need to let people know, write another email that describes the suspected email but has no links. You can also forward a screenshot to your colleagues or friends to illustrate the scam.
Looking for more ways you can protect your company? Contact us today. We can work with you to develop a security system that will meet your needs.
Published on 19th April 2013 by Jeanne DeWitt.