You can't imagine ever getting scammed. Besides being a diligent Internet user who knows the ins and outs of web terrain, you have an email account that siphons all harmful messages into a neat little folder, which you never even check. So you're completely safe, right?
Scam emails and viruses can fall through the cracks every now and then, and when they do, be ready. Studies show that email scams target people who are likely to fall for something more than once. You don't want to be lumped into that group.
Scammers are getting smarter these days, too. It's not just that one "Nigerian prince" from years ago — there's a whole royal family of scammers out there.
Here's a list of 10 scam indicators you should watch out for when going through your inbox. Keep your guard up and you'll have nothing to worry about.
1. Disembodied Links
Here are the types of emailed links that should make you especially wary:
- links that are the only content in the body of an email
- bit.ly or otherwise shortened links that don't display the actual address
- hyperlinked text (for the same reason as shortened links — there's no indication of what you would be clicking)
When in doubt, don't click. But to help you out, browsers like Google Chrome can reveal a link's full address when you hover over it with your mouse cursor. For shortened links, you can use nifty link expanders like LongURL to view the real content before clicking.
2. Inordinate Number of Recipients
If you get an email with hundreds of email addresses in the recipient field, yet the message seems directed toward one person, your scam sense should be on high alert.
3. Vague, Generic or Nonexistent Subject Lines
Sure, you send emails without subjects to your friends all the time, but if an email pops up from an unrecognizable address with "(no subject)," be careful. The same goes for vague or generic subject lines, including "Fwd: private" or "Free to look!" If you have no idea what you're opening, it's probably best to leave it alone.
4. Intense Enthusiasm
WHEN IT COMES TO EMAIL SECURITY, CAPS LOCK CAN BE MORE THAN JUST ANNOYING — it can indicate spam. Overly enthusiastic emails with emphasis and exclamations (e.g. "I JUST LOST 45lbs W/ THE X-Fit fitness program!!1!!") are surefire signs that the information isn't what it seems.
5. Grammar and Spelling
You don't have to be a grammar nut to notice odd mistakes in scam emails. Look out for questionable syntax and major typos, especially if the email supposedly comes from a reputable company or bank.
Also watch out for scammers that purposely misspell things to avoid your spam filter, such as "V1agr@" instead of "Viagra." (Tip: You probably shouldn't be buying Viagra via email, anyway.)
6. Strange Requests
This one's easy: If someone is emailing you for medical assistance or writes, "Help me cheat on my husband," it's just not legit. That's what emergency contacts are for. And Snapchat.
People don't typically use email to send urgent messages of an emergency nature. If you get an email that claims a situation is a matter of life or death (or a desperate person who needs money wired now), it's safe to assume the sender wouldn't be targeting you, a stranger, in the first place.
8. Sensitive Information Requests
Unfortunately, people accidentally send secure information to scammers more often than you would expect. This is how scammers (that is, smart scammers) operate — many ask for personal information (credit card numbers, passwords) and disguise emails to look official. Companies, schools, banks and other institutions won't ask you to transmit sensitive information in an email.
9. Name-Sender Disagreement
Scam email addresses often have different names to dupe the recipient. Check the address before assuming something is true — an email from Match.com wouldn't have the email address "firstname.lastname@example.org" (true story).
10. Surefire Guarantees
You should know by now that nothing on the Internet is guaranteed. Promises to boost your sex life or quick money via working from home shouldn't be taken seriously. "Watch this video and women will adore you?" More like, "Click this link and regret it."
What other telltale signs of scammers do you keep on your radar? Let us know in the comments.