Danger In Every Email You See: 16 Red Flags

Oct 11, 2018, 8:55 AM

Halt the hackers before they start with this list of what to watch out for.

If you’re reading this blog post, you probably use email. It might be at your job, to communicate with co-workers on the other side of the building or the other side of the country. Or it could be at home, with family and friends. Most likely, it’s both.

Most red flags won't be this obvious

And though many email systems have built-in security to protect their users from spam and solicitors, someone who wants to get in your computer, or get at your list of friends and customers, can do it by phishing.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “phishing” is what it sounds like: a hacker sends out bait – often in the form of an email that looks trustworthy – and tries to hook a target: you. Computer security experts have identified several kinds of red flags you need to look for to spot a suspicious email. Every part of an email can be a risk.

  • An email address you don’t recognize
  • An email address you recognize, but the message isn’t one you’d expect the that sender to send
  • A well-known company that doesn’t normally email directly to customers

  • TO:
  • People at my company who normally don’t work together
  • Employee names I don’t recognize

  • DATE:
  • A message sent outside business hours
  • A message sent on a holiday or non-business day

  • A subject that doesn’t match the content of the message
  • A reply to something I never sent or asked for

  • The email communicates a sense of urgency
  • The email asks for sensitive information
  • The email contains a message that makes no sense
  • The email’s message asks for something the sender wouldn’t ask for
  • The email is asking for money 

  • Hovering over a link on the screen shows the link goes to a different website
  • The attachment doesn’t have anything to do with the message
  • Does this mean you have to second-guess yourself every time you check your email? No, just be aware of the potential for danger. A modern email system, probably like the one you’re using, will catch most “bad” email. But for the few messages that get through the system filters, you can protect yourself by reaching out another way. Don’t use the “reply” button in an email — it might reply directly to the person who’s trying to damage your email account.

    If you get an email from a friend that doesn’t sound like him or her, make a phone call, or send a text. Ask that person if they sent the message. If they say no, you know it’s a fake. And now your friend knows their account has been compromised, so they can tell everyone else on their email list to be careful.

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