5 Emails You Should Never Open

Email scams, phishing attacks and spam can happen to anyone. While your email comes with fancy spam filters that are designed to detect and block scams, it’s not always foolproof. Scammers have developed sophisticated methods to scam individuals. They can create emails that look similar to trusted organizations and convince people to share their personal information or install malware onto their devices.

So, what can you do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim? The best move is to educate yourself on the signs of a suspicious email. Here are five signs that you may have just received an email scam:

1. Asks for personal information

The main goal of a phishing scam is to collect personal data to steal your identity or money. Scammers often do this by disguising the email to look like it’s from an official source such as your bank or the IRS. Because you trust those organizations, you could be fooled into handing over your personal information: social security number, login information or more sensitive data. If you need to verify the authenticity of an email, it’s best to contact the official organization directly and avoid replying to the email.

2. Urgent request

One of the biggest red flags of a scam is if the tone is urgent. Scammers don’t want you to stop and think about what you’re clicking or sharing, so they create a scenario where you will respond quickly. A phishing scam may claim there was a fraudulent transaction on your credit card—and then ask you to click a link to fix the issue. Of course, the link either downloads malware or collects your private information.

3. Sounds too good to be true

Did the government reach out to you to say you were entitled to a large tax refund? Did you win a million dollars? Or maybe someone is promising a way to get rich fast. All of these emails are often used by scammers to pull someone into a trap. If you receive one of these emails, you should take a few moments to judge if the email is from a legitimate organization. But it’s probably not.

4. Don’t recognize the sender

If you don’t know the person who sent the email, you probably shouldn’t open it. But this isn’t always easy to do. In a work environment, you may constantly get emails from people outside of your organization. In this case, always double-check the sender’s email address before you respond or click on any links. Scammers often use similar email addresses of familiar companies or organizations, but it’s slightly off. By examining the email address, you can save yourself from interacting with a scammer.

5. Unusual language

Grammar errors are often noted as being a sign of a potential scam. But there are some other things to look out for, too. Maybe the sender addresses you in a different way than normal. For example, they write “Hello, Ms. Smith” when you’re on a first-name basis. It could also be more obvious, like receiving an email in a language you don’t know.

What should I do if I open a suspicious email?

If you’ve opened an email and realize it may be a scam, it’s not too late to protect yourself. A scammer is probably not going to be able to put a virus on your computer or steal your private information just by you opening the email. Here are some steps you can take if you’ve received a suspicious email:

  • Don’t open any attachments or links.
  • Don’t respond to the email either, especially if it asks you to send sensitive information like your credit card number.
  • If the email appears to be from your bank or another account you have, report it on the company website. They want to know about suspicious emails their customers are receiving and will probably have an email address where you can forward this fraudulent email.
  • Report the phishing email to authorities like the Anti-Phishing Working Group at reportphishing@apwg.org or report to the Federal Trade Commission at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/.

What if I click on a link or open an attachment?

If this is the case, the scammer may have installed malware on your device or gathered personal information. Here’s what to do:

  • Update your security software, including your Wi-Fi network.
  • Use antivirus software to catch threats. If it finds a virus, follow the instructions to remove it from your device.
  • Go to IdentityTheft.gov to notify authorities your identity may have been compromised, and follow the advice on how to monitor your financial situation.`

How can I stay safe?

Phishing emails are specifically designed to manipulate people, so it’s not surprising when people fall victim to a scam. The best way to prevent identity or financial theft is to know the signs of a phishing email, and then take the appropriate action to not be victimized. You may also want to consider installing antivirus software to automatically scan your device to find and remove threats such as viruses.

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