Managing Your Email, Part One: How to Identify Dangerous Emails

10/12/2016

Dealing with dangerous emails can be challenging if you aren’t technically inclined. Because scammers have become good at obfuscating their motives, many people aren’t able to differentiate between legitimate and malicious emails. That’s why, more than anything, it’s important to understand the warning signs of scams, phishing attempts and efforts to spread viruses. In the first part of this series on working with your emails, we’re going to look at how to identify dangerous emails.

Untrusted sources

It may sound obvious but the first step in protecting yourself from dangerous emails is to never trust unfamiliar sources. If you receive an unsolicited email from an unknown person, approach it with skepticism and understand that it may be a scammer testing the waters.

Requesting personal information

No legitimate business, organization or institution will request sensitive, personal information via email. Whether it’s about your bank account number, social security number, credit card information or address, in almost all cases, legitimate companies will handle these requests by means other than email.

Unknown attachments

One of the most glaring pieces of evidence that an email is dangerous is if it contains an unknown attachment. Particularly dangerous are PDFs, ZIP files and documents, which can be used to spread malicious viruses that can wreak havoc on your computer systems.

Outbound links

Links to unfamiliar websites – or even seemingly familiar websites – can be dangerous to click. Scammers and phishers will often try to make their links look legitimate by utilizing similar (or official sounding) domain names.

Poor grammar

Many phishing emails are sent from other countries. Because of this, the sender’s grammar may seem “off.” While it may not be as obvious as blatant misspellings, look for strange transitions in the email’s tone and subject… extremely formal openings (“Dear Madam”) followed by informal slang (“will send you cash”) are a good indicator that the email you’ve received is not legitimate.

If you suspect that you’ve received a dangerous email, the best thing that you can do is speak with your IT service provider. You should never – never! – respond to these types of emails, as it will only confirm to the sender that they have contacted a real – and possibly gullible – person. Last, you should not forward the email to colleagues, as they may open it believing that the email came from a trusted source. And, of course, if you have any questions about managing your business’ email or computer networks, we encourage you to contact the team at NobleNetworks!