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How to Tell If an Email Is Fake or Real

how to tell if an email is fake or real

In today’s digital world, attackers leave no stone unturned to gain access to your finances. Though your networks and systems are secured with robust digital securities, they are always a step ahead in implementing some malicious plan to penetrate your digital infrastructure. One such attack is carried out by sending a fake email posing as legit to gain information.

Emails are becoming extremely popular and essential due to their convenience to communicate quickly and inexpensively for personal or professional reasons. It has paved another way for hackers to execute fake email attacks to grab your information. These fake emails are also termed phishing emails.

Research indicates:

  • 6 billion emails are sent and received daily.
  • 94% of the people fail to tell the difference between a real email and a phishing email.

Usually, phishing emails land up in spam folders, but sometimes they deceive the web and email security solutions and land in the client’s inbox.

Tips on How to Know if an Email is Real or Not:

In this blog, I have penned down some tips that will help you identify phishing emails from real ones. Let’s check them out.

#1. Watch out for Deceitful Domains and Wrong Spellings in the Email Address:

Phishing emails are difficult to trace since they mirror real ones for duping people or companies. Cyber-criminals are always on the lookout for legitimate email domain names of companies to create fake domains by adding or eliminating letters for generating a fake email ID.

These clever attackers purchase domain names that are homogeneous to the legit domain names of companies they target.

Example:

Legit ID: www.hdfcbank.com

Fake ID: www.hfdcbank.com

Scammers use some common replacements in alphabets like “m” with “rn,” “o” with “0”, etc., in the domain addresses to create deceiving domains.

Though the email recipients are watchful, they may miss out on such deceitful domain addresses as “rncdonald.com” instead of “mcdonald.com.”

Be alert while reviewing the domain address to fall into such malicious traps.

#2. Verify the Sender’s Address from the Email Header:

To know whether the email is from legit sources or not, check the below-mentioned factors in the sender’s domain address:

  • The sender uses a public domain address like Gmail, Yahoo, etc., and not the company’s domain address.

Let me explain the same with the help of an example.

 

verify the sender’s address from the email header

The above image clearly states that if the sender is sending an email from the company, the email id after @ should be Norton.com and not a common domain address like gmail.com.

In the case of using a common domain name, it’s a warning sign that the email is from a fake source.

  • The sender is using a suspicious domain name.
  • The name of the sender and the name stated in the email address are unmatched.

All these tips can help you identify a phishing email from a legit one.

#3. Unusual Use of the BCC Field:

Generally, when a company communicates with any vendor or customer, they always use the “To” or “Send To” field. So, when any company addresses any client by sending an email via the Bcc field, the mail may be fake.

Unusual Use of the BCC Field

This clever attacker has used @amazon.com, which is visible in the sender’s email address, to dupe the recipient. But since the addressee’s email ID is mentioned in the BCC field, it should trigger an alert.

Beware of such savvy fraudsters and secure your business.

#4. Cross-Check Embedded Links:

Another way to verify a fake email is to keep a check on embedded links.

  • Generally, embedded links should redirect to another page on the same site. But fraudsters often resort to embedded links to dupe customers by redirecting them to malicious sites when they click on those links.

For Example, you receive an email from Bank of America stating to change your account password for security reasons, with a link attached.

The link https://www.bankofamerica.com/changepassword may look genuine, but it may redirect you to some fake website, impersonating the legit one.

Once you share your sensitive data on such sites, you are duped with your finances.

  • At times such links are loaded with malware and can damage your networks and systems. Scammers also use the “unsubscribe” tab to redirect customers, for which you can place your cursor on the link to verify the URL.

 

  • In some cases, companies use short URLs to look more decent and professional. Attackers too use this technique to hide their fake links for tricking customers.

Example: A link commencing with “https://example/category/assets/division” can be shortened to “https://example.com/div.”

Expand the same by going to getlinkinfo.com and verifying the link’s legitimacy.

#5. Check the Content of the Email for Errors:

Apart from verifying the sender’s email address and domain name, go a step further to check the email content for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.

Employees of genuine companies are precise in sending emails, and hence multiple mistakes in the content are rare in such cases.

So, if you receive an email whose content is erroneous or is loaded with poor grammar, it’s a red signal stating that the email is not from a legit source.

#6. Control Your Emotional Quotient:

The new trend in phishing is urgency in the language to gain customer information by hitting customer emotions.

Scammers trigger the weak points of customers by stirring their happy, excited, angry, or curious emotions and trick them into punching their desired information.

Examples of Content of Emails sent By Scammers:

  • Unbelievable Discount Offers
  • Fake Job Offers
  • Fake Online Purchases from your Account

Such emails instantly trigger customer emotions who forget to verify the sender’s details before submitting their information.

Sometimes scammers create a feeling of urgency, prompting the customer to take instant action, thus trapping and forcing them to take their desired action.

#7. Question Yourself on Unforeseen Attachments:

It’s always better to be cautious when it comes to giving information. Sometimes scammers send malicious attachments in the form of information which needs to be addressed with caution.

Example:

An attachment in the form of a payment receipt, an invoice, an acknowledgment, etc., should be questioned since you may not have asked for it. Questions like:

  • Why didn’t they call?
  • Did I ask for it?
  • What is their motto?

The answers to the above can prevent you from opening harmful attachments and save you from disasters.

unforeseen attachments

It is a risky attachment file, and the best option is to directly approach the company by confirming their listed number from Google before opening such risky attachments.

Never go for the contact details mentioned in such emails, as they can be deceiving.

#8. Always Be Vigilant:

In this era, where cyber-crime is constantly rising, staying vigilant always prevents damage. Be it an actual email or a fake one, always cross-check before clicking any link or attachment or giving any personal information.

One wrong click can infect your system with malware and damage your business and reputation. Here, you can find expert tips to stop malware attacks.

Follow your instincts when you feel something suspicious in the email because sometimes a wrong link/attachment can accidentally be sent from a legit mail.

Beware of addressing emails stating:

  • To instantly transfer payments
  • Unreasonable discounts on products
  • To donate to unknown companies
  • To click on unknown links
  • To download an unknown application or software

Though such emails come from a known sender, have a telephonic conversation before taking any action.

#9. Beware of Financial Benefits and Fake Charitable Institutions:

Big lotteries entice users to believe the mail and instantly act as requested by the sender. In most cases, such emails are fake and hence address such emails with caution.

Secondly, scammers target users by playing the sensitive card, taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic. They impersonate themselves as charitable trusts helping people affected by the pandemic and asking for charities via fake emails.

Once you click on the link stated in the email, you are instantly directed to a fake site, wherein the scammer is waiting for your finances and other sensitive details.

Wrapping Up:

Phishing emails are always sent with a motive to deliver malware into the user’s systems, gain personal information of the users, get access to login credentials, redirect users to a fake site, etc.

Apart from educating employees regarding such fake emails, blocking the sender’s email address and reporting such emails to the cyber-crime department may prevent scammers from fulfilling their evil motives.

Stay vigilant by verifying the sender’s details before addressing emails, click on links/attachments with caution, confirm with the sender before submitting any personal information, etc. are some fundamental factors that can prevent you from falling into the traps laid by scammers.

Follow your instincts, confirm your doubts via telephonic conversation or face to face, and prevent yourself from being a victim of a phishing attack. Best Wishes!!

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