Spotting Email Fraud

Is this email a fake?
. . is one of the questions we hear most.  Criminals barrage the global email system with fake messages nearly free, hoping to catch just a few trusting souls. Even the best spam filters struggle to keep up with their tricks, so it's helpful to know what to look for.

Here are four easy tip-offs that an email is fake.

1. The return address. See how the "claimed" sender in the email below is, but the actual sending address between the <>'s is different? Big red flag. Putting a fake sent-from address on an email is nearly as easy as writing one on an envelope.  
2. Deceptive links See the link below that appears to go to a real .gov website?
DON'T EVER click on links in an email like this.  Instead, point to the link with your mouse (green arrow) and look at the bottom of the window to see where the link REALLY goes (red arrow); "" is definitely wrong:


3. Unexpected content Spammers are often obviously and hilariously inept in English (not to mention fantastically creative with synonyms for male body parts).  But they also sometimes get into real email accounts and send urgent-sounding emails to the victim's entire address list.  If you receive an email from someone you know and the tone or content is a little strange ("I'm stranded and need cash," "Found a great drugstore," etc.), DON'T click on it and DON'T reply; instead, send the person a brand new email to confirm. Or call them.  

4. Broadcast requests Any email that tells a heart-rending or alarming story and asks you to "share this with everyone you know" is immediately suspect. Don't. 

Stay warm and safe in the blizzard this weekend!