Editor’s Note: This article was last updated September 10, 2015.
In this day and age, spammers are becoming more and more sophisticated. They are finding ways to trick people into thinking their unsolicited junk messages are worth the time you spend reading them. While many users are savvy enough to figure out what’s real and what’s bogus among their electronic correspondence, there are many out there who take what they receive at face value and open it.
Sometimes the electronic junk mail swindlers are clever enough to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s in the best interests of your computer’s health and your sanity to research how to tell if an email is spam or genuine. We researched this topic extensively and generated a list of the top five ways to tell if an email is spam. These rules can help you when spam slips through the protection of your spam filter.
Here is the list, in no particular order:
If It Ends Up In Your Spam Folder
You might be reading this entry and thinking “Duh!” But you would be surprised how many people go rummaging through their spam folder like there’s something they need in there. Unless you accidentally categorized legitimate emails as spam, you can be pretty sure that all the emails you need will appear in your inbox. Sometimes emails from certain websites end up in the spam folder. You must deal with those on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not they’re legitimate of pushing garbage into your inbox.
Look at the Email Address
Legitimate companies send emails through a server based out of their company website (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org). If you see a long string of numbers in front of the @ sign or the name of a free email service before the .com (or any other domain), you need to question the legitimacy of the email in question.
Look at the Content
Keep an eye out for emails that say you need to do something right at that second or within a certain number of hours. Also, be wary of any emails that include links. Most companies tell you what to do, but they never direct you to where to do it with a link. Finally, rampant grammatical and spelling errors within the body of an email are good signs that it’s spam. Spammers don’t care enough about the actual messages they’re sending to take the time to make them make sense.
If It Asks for Personal Information
Most institutions you deal with come right out and say they’re never going to ask for personal information in an email. They don’t need to ask you for your personal information anyway because they usually have it on hand. So, if you get an email that asks you for any personal information, no matter how legitimate it might seem, delete it right away. Personal information is only meant to be entered in secure, encrypted forms, not emails where anyone and everyone can get their hands on your information.
Look at the Greeting
When you receive a genuine email, the sender addresses you directly, using either your first or last name. If you receive an email where they refer to you as a “Valued Customer” or as a member of some company, its spam. Senders of your genuine emails want to get your attention, so they always address you directly. We don’t know about you, but when we read “Dear Valued Customer,” our eyes begin to glaze over and our mouse cursor can’t drag it to the trash fast enough.