Follow these 4 tips to stay safe from scam emails

When someone drops you an email to claim free money, it’s too good to be true

Another day, another email trying to sell me a penis pump or get me to become a "local investor." I'm sure you know the feeling.

Using a webmail service like Gmail or Outlook has advantages, like a sophisticated spam filter. Thanks to these filters, spam is largely a thing of the past.

But these filters aren't perfect. Sometimes we'll have to check our spam folder for wrongly filed non-spam email. Sometimes the filter might miss something, and a scam email shows up in our inbox.

So what exactly does a scam email look like? They fall into a few categories, but they all share the same characteristics.

If you know what to look for, you can send these scams back where they belong - the deep, dark corners of the internet.

Subject headers are a dead giveaway

The subject header should be your first clue in spotting a scam email. Companies care about the way these are formatted. A poorly formatted or grammatically incorrect subject header reflects poorly on a business.

Here are three subject headers. Two of them are from legit emails. The third is from a scam email. Guess which is which.

  • Agoda Booking ID XXXXXXXX Customer Satisfaction Survey
  • Official Best Practices: Driving More Calls with AdWords
  • Re: PAYMENT NOTIFICATION!!!SHOULD WE PAY THEM ON YOUR BEHALF?ind.

Pretty straightforward, huh? The excessive number of exclamation marks!!! The all caps. Incorrect spacing. All of these clues point to the third item.

[Image source: Freepik]

Pay attention to the sender name and email address

Sometimes, the subject header holds up and you'll have to dig deeper.

I got an email with the ominous-sounding subject header "Your account will expire soon." The subject header looked legit, but when I looked at the sender name and email address, I started having doubts.

Aside from the fact that I don't have an account with RHB Bank, the sender name given was "RHB Online Banking" but the email address was s***@vanderbilt.edu (hiding the username to protect the innocent).

I don't know much, but I do know that RHB Bank is a commercial bank and would not be sending emails from a domain reserved for educational institutions. A legit correspondence from RHB Bank would come from rhbbank.com.my.

Make sure that the sender name and email address match. If they don't, then it's a sure sign it's a scam.

[Image source: Freepik]

Email body

The body of the email is an extension of the subject header and we need to use the same bullshit detector to filter out a scam. If the body is as poorly edited or formatted as the subject header, it's a scam.

Sometimes too little information is a clue it's a scam.

[Image source: Flickr]

Why is my account expiring? How does upgrading it save it from suspension? The email doesn't say. The reader wants to find out more information and wants to click on the link, but a bank (or any company for that matter) should be (and usually are) more transparent about decisions like account suspension. They would also give the reader more than one way to get in touch.

You might get more information than you bargained for.

Get smart

Get acquainted with the different types of scams out there. There are a lot of resources to help you out. Google maintains a list of Google-related scams. If you're unsure an email is a scam, Google it. Someone might have encountered the same email before.

Be careful who you give your personal information to, especially information that could be used to steal your identity, like bank account number, PIN number, credit card number, mother's maiden name, or birthday.

Think you're a scam expert? Test your knowledge of email scams in this online quiz by Intel Security.

[Image source: Freepik]