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Tips for Detecting Email Scams

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Internet Family Fun Home > What You Want to Know About... > Tips for Detecting Email Scams

How to Determine If An Email Is A Scam Or Legitimate

In Email Scams I point out several common scams that are being used online to obtain information including the emails. These scams change everyday so instead of knowing about each scam, you need to be able to detect email scams yourself. Here are some things to look for:

  • Email Scam Detection Tip - Asking For Too Much Information
    No one will ever ask you for your password, social security number or credit card information in an email. It is not safe to send this kind of information in an email because it is not secure. They would know that information anyway. If they are asking for this information you should be wary.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - The Return Email Address
    Carefully check the return email address. Remember that the displayed return address can be different than the email address you are actually sending to. To verify the address that you are actually sending to, click "Reply" then highlight the email address in the "To" area. Right click on the highlighted area and select "Properties". This will tell you the address it is being sent to. If they don't match, don't reply.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - Links to Web Sites in the Email
    Check to make sure the link to a Web site is the same as what is displayed. For example I have coded this link to display a link to CNN but when you click it, it goes to In a scam, a site could look similar to the official site and you might not notice that you aren't at the official site. To verify the link, click the link, then copy and paste the displayed text in the link into your browser and go there. If they are different, bells and whistles should be going off that indicate this is a scam.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - Not Giving You Enough Information
    Is the email addressed to you in the body of the email? Do they give dates and other information that verifies it is not a random email? If it doesn't, the same email has been sent to thousands of people.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - Verify Organizations They Mention
    In the Best Buy scam, they mention the National Credit Bureau. There is no such organization. Double check that the official sounding organization does exist by doing a Google search and verifying that they are aware of this situation by looking at their Web site.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - Check with Government Agencies for Known Scams
    Check with the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau to see if the scams are listed there.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - You Get Multiple Copies of the Email
    If you got more than one copy of the email, it should send up red flags that this is spam and it is not legitimate.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - Ask You to Call A Number
    Some scams ask you to call a telephone number. This is designed to make you feel better because you are talking to a person. Remember that the telephone number can lead to any place (anyone can get an 800 number and answer it in any way they want and claim to be an official organization). In one scam to protect your identity they asked you to call and they asked for your name and social security number, then hung up. Never give out this kind of information unless you are absolutely sure you know who you are dealing with.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - Time Stamps
    Check the time stamp on the email that was sent to you to determine if it came from within the United States.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - Act Paranoid
    Be very wary of email you get. Chances are they are trying to get information from you to rip you off. Besides, if you really are being defrauded, they wouldn't email you, the authorities would contact you via telephone or regular mail.
  • Email Scam Detection Tip - If It Sounds Too Good To Be True
    It probably is!

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