Email spam. Spam can range from unwanted marketing communications to cybercrime phishing emails.

How To Spot Spam – Tech Tip for November 3, 2020

As we continue to grapple with Coronavirus, we have another scourge to deal with… tremendous amounts of spam. This month our Tech Tips will focus on strategies to identify and combat spam.

What is Spam?

Spam is any kind of unwanted, unsolicited digital communication, often an email, that gets sent out in bulk. There are several types of spam to consider. On one end of the spam spectrum, you have mostly benign marketing spam from unscrupulous sellers. On the other end of the spam spectrum, you have serious phishing emails – cybercriminals attempting to break into your online accounts, steal your data, steal your money and spread malware.

Learn How to Spot Spam

Here are the six red flags for spotting spam. If you see any of these, then you’re probably looking at a spam or a phishing email.

  1. The sender’s address isn’t correct. If it’s a legitimate email the sender’s address should match the domain for the company they claim to represent. In other words, emails from PayPal always come from example@paypal.com and emails from Microsoft always come from example@microsoft.com.
  2. The sender doesn’t seem to actually know who you are. Legitimate emails from companies and people you know will be addressed to you by name. Phishing emails often use generic salutations like “customer” or “friend.”
  3. Embedded links have unusual URLs. Vet the URL before clicking by hovering over it with your cursor. If the link looks suspicious, navigate to the website directly via your browser. Same for any call-to-action buttons. Hover over them with your mouse before clicking. If you’re on a mobile device, navigate to the site directly or via the dedicated app. Text message spam often includes links to spoofed sites designed to capture your login.
  4. Typos, bad grammar, and unusual syntax. Does it look like the email was translated back and forth through Google Translate several times? If so, it probably was.
  5. The email is too good to be true. Advance-fee scams work because they offer a huge reward in exchange for very little work. But if you take some time to actually think about the email, the content is beyond reason.
  6. There are attachments. In the world of email communication and marketing, attachments are a big no-no, and businesses generally don’t send emails with attachments.

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