According to Excelacom, an average of 156 billion emails are sent every minute worldwide. This number is difficult to comprehend and it’s not surprising that many of us struggle with email overload. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only thing about multiple emails that can cause us to lose sleep. Many online threats, including ransomware and viruses, make their way into our digital lives through phishing emails. These scams are not only abundant, but growing in volume, complexity and risk.
Phishing emails are fake or deceptive emails that encourage recipients to download malicious attachments, click on bad links, or visit fraudulent websites where you provide confidential information that is then used for fraudulent purposes.
In honour of Fraud Prevention Month, here are five tips to help you spot these emails.
- Who is the sender? If you don’t recognize the sender, and it’s not an email you’ve subscribed to, proceed with caution. Additionally, look beyond the name and inspect the email address; sometimes you may see a domain name that is misspelled (e.g John.Doe@tellus.com) or a string of letters and characters in the email address. These are very good clues that the email is illegitimate.
- Is the email asking for personal information? Emails that ask you to validate or update personal information are likely malicious. Reputable organizations, banks and government bodies will not email you asking for private information. If you’re unsure, you can call the organization to inquire about the email you received and validity of the request. If you are going to call in, do not use the contact information in the questionable email; instead, look up the contact information on a statement, or by directly visiting the company’s site.
- Are there grammar or spelling errors? These simple errors can tip you off about the credibility of an email. Also, language that is threatening or driving you to take urgent action before a looming deadline can be another sign of a fraudulent email. Sometimes the body of the email will be intentionally vague – a tactic used to encourage recipients to click, reply to the email, or open a bad attachment for more information.
- Does the email sound too good to be true? If the answer is yes, it probably is. Don’t click on any emails claiming that you have won a contest or prize or have been left money from a deceased relative whom you do not know.
- Did the email land in your junk mailbox or get flagged as spam or unsafe? Heed these warnings and delete the message. Don’t respond to suspicious messages or click on ‘unsubscribe’ links as they too could be malicious.
If you’re unsure of an email that lands in your inbox simply trust your instinct and don’t click. Report fraudulent emails to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre