Five tips for avoiding email scams

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While technology is always changing, emails scams have remained a constant.

Many such scams are described as 'phishing emails' as they try to get the recipient to 'bite' and offer up bank or payment details.

Before responding or clicking on a link or attachment in an email, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Does it make you panic?

A common tactic is to panic the recipient causing them to respond so quickly that they haven't had time to think about what they are doing.

Sometimes the email will claim to be from a loved one in a state of distress and asking you for money. On other occasions you will be informed that an important payment has failed.

Don't open any accompanying attachments even if the email claims they are sending a receipt or some other additional information. The attachment could contain a file that, once opened, will install a virus on your device.

If the email is from a friend or family member asking you for money - it's possible that their account has been hacked by scammers. If you're really worried about them, trying getting in touch with them by phone.

2. What email address has the email been sent from?

Revealing the real sender

Webmail reveals the real email address of a sender

On webmail, try hovering your cursor over the email address to reveal the sender's real email address.

On a smartphone or tablet the sender's details can be seen by tapping on the name in the 'From' field.

If an email is offering a deal that's too good to be true, then it probably is. Even if it appears to be from a legitimate business, friends or family members.

When emails claim to be from banks, online stores or other trusted organisations, check to see what the email address looks like.

What's hidden underneath the sender name might be quite different from the name that you can see.

Alarm bells should be ringing if the message has been sent from a free email provider, such as GMail or Outlook.com, rather than associated with the company in question.

3. Who is the message addressed to?

If the email doesn't address you personally, but says something like 'Dear Customer' or 'Dear Friend', the message could well be part of a mass mail-out by scammers.

By sending out thousands of emails like this, criminals hope they can trick a few people into trusting them and unwittingly hand over their cash.

4. Are there links in the email?

Checking links in webmail

Copying a link

Right click on the link, copy and paste it into your browser's address bar to reveal the target website.

Don't press enter as you want to avoid visiting the offending site.

If there are links in the email don't click on them even if they look genuine.

Like the sender details, they can appear to be harmless but the underlying web address can take you to the scammers website.

This site might look identical to the one you'd expect to see but in fact be an imitation website.

If you enter payment details or other personal information this can be harvested and used for fraudulent purposes.

Using your browser you can check to see where links are going without clicking through to a rogue website.

5. Is the message written in good English?

There are many small clues that can hint that an email is not trustworthy.

For example, a small difference in the company logo or the layout of the message looking sloppy and unprofessional. Check the spelling and grammar and be wary if there is an unusual use of capital letters in a sentence.

If there's anything about an email that makes you feel slightly uneasy or nervous about an email you've received, just remember you don't need to respond immediately.

Take your time to work through these five steps whenever something makes you feel uneasy.

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