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Blog > Internet Scams > How to Tell if an Email is a Scam
 April 01, 2020

How to Tell if an Email is a Scam

Man typing on a laptop keyboard with white lines linking padlocks overlay the photo.

Staying Vigilant Against Email Scams

The coronavirus pandemic is top of mind for everyone, and unfortunately, cybercriminals are all too eager to capitalize on our unprecedented circumstances to steal sensitive personal and financial data. One example of this is phishing scams, in which cybercriminals attempt to get access to details like passwords, credit card numbers or Social Security information through fake texts or emails linking a new offering or service to the virus. This is why Social Security number protection is crucial.

For example, last week news broke of a fraudulent Netflix offer promising free subscriptions to help people pass the time while social distancing. It’s a nice idea but it’s not legitimate, and it’s far from the only Coronavirus-themed scam circulating online.

So, what can you do to spot these scams and ensure your personal and financial information stays safe?

Here are a few basic security tips to consider:

  • Read the Subject Line:
    The subject line can be very effective in alerting you to a possible phishing scam. Fraudsters typically convey a sense of urgency and personalization in an attempt to pressure you into opening the email and acting quickly. Phrases like “[Your Name], Act Now!!!!,” “Urgent Coronavirus Update” and “Coronavirus Offer for [Your State] Only” are all examples of red flag subject lines.
  • Check the Sender:
    It’s also important to review the sender’s email address. Right-clicking on your keyboard or hovering your mouse over the “from” will allow you to look for things like numbers, characters or additional letters that don’t seem to belong. These aren’t always a sign that something is wrong, but it’s an important step in identifying emails that may be fraudulent.
  • Suspicious URLs:
    Phishing attempts will direct you to a web address, or URL, where you can sign up for the service. Always review these before you click on them to look for anything suspicious—for example, misspelled names or extra characters. The URL in the Netflix scam contained odd dashes and symbols. Of course, many URLs do include characters but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and contact the company first before clicking on any link that appears suspicious.
  • Grammar, Content and Layout:
    The Netflix screenshot also highlights another common phishing characteristic: poor grammar. It’s always possible that a company might have a typo or grammar mistake in a legitimate communication, but when you spot multiple issues it’s a sign that something is amiss. The email content itself also can contain clues—for example, is it addressed to you or does it have a generic greeting like “Dear Sir”? In addition, reviewing the layout for odd spacing between words, multiple spaces between lines or no spacing at all can help you determine whether a message is fraudulent.

The steps outlined above can go a long way in helping protect you from the uptick in phishing scams associated with the coronavirus pandemic. And be sure to keep an eye on this blog, as we’ll be exploring additional strategies for keeping your data safe in future posts.

Get help from the professionals.

You don’t have to protect your private information on your own. You can proactively arm yourself against cybercrimes and reputation hijacking. IDShield, your all-inclusive solution to identity protection, monitoring, and restoration, now brings you enhanced privacy and reputation management consultation.

IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact an attorney for legal advice or assistance. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm.


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