February 4, 2021

Spam emails 101: 5 ways to spot a suspicious email

Explore the most common signs that an email is a phishing scam to better improve your cyber security knowledge

Have you ever received an email warning you that your account has been compromised?

Or that if you didn’t share your phone number and address that your account would be shut down?

Or perhaps one with a suspicious link or attachment? 

If your answer is yes, that means that you’ve been the target of a phishing scam—an email that appears to be from a well-known source and asks the consumer to provide personal identifying information. [1]

Phishing, or suspicious, emails have become increasingly common in recent years and have proven to be costly—in 2019, people lost $57 million to phishing schemes. [2]

As a business owner, it’s important that you and your employees are well-versed in how to spot a suspicious email so that you can avoid compromised data and virus installation on your devices. 

Continue reading to learn our top 5 ways to spot a phishing email! 

#1: The email looks like it’s from a company you know or trust.

Most suspicious emails will appear to be from a company that you’re familiar with. It may look like it’s from your bank, a credit card company, a social media site or an online store that you frequent. 

However, there will be something off about the message—whether that be how they address you, the information they request, or the domain name. We’ll explore all of these issues later in further detail, but you have to be cautious and assess all aspects of the message to spot a suspicious email. 

#2: The message tells you a story about your account.

The goal of most email scammers is to get you to click on an attachment or link that takes you to a fraudulent website, steals your personal information, or installs malware, spyware, or ransomware on your device.

The messages of suspicious emails are often designed to convince you to click on these links or attachments.

Watch out for emails that:

  • Say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts on your account
  • Claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
  • Say you must confirm personal information such as banking details or login credentials
  • Include a fake invoice
  • Want you to click on a link to make a payment
  • Say you’re eligible to register for a government refund, and
  • Offer a coupon for free goods or services. [3]

#3: The email address does not look genuine.

As we mentioned earlier, a suspicious email may look as though it’s from a company or person that you know. The name that appears may be legit, but many scammers use fraudulent email addresses to send phishing emails. 

Take the time to examine the actual domain name, not just the display name. The email address may appear to be authentic, but upon closer look there may be something off.

For example, you may have seemed to receive an email from Airbnb. Upon further inspection, you find that it came from “@mail.airbnb.work” instead of the actual “@airbnb.com”.

If you aren’t sure what a company’s domain name is, a quick search on the internet can usually answer your question. You can also look back at previous legitimate emails from that company and compare the addresses of the two. However, if you’re still not sure, err on the side of caution. Try calling the company directly and ask if there are any issues with your account instead of trusting the email. 

#4: The email is poorly written.

One of the simplest ways to spot a suspicious email is if it’s ridden with typos. Emails from real companies have been written by professionals whose job is to ensure their messaging is free of spelling, grammar, and legality errors. 

Some IT professionals even believe that phishing emails are purposefully riddled with errors so that they end up targeting the most gullible people and their scam is as easy as possible. 

Be sure to closely read through the email and check for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and weird turns of phrase. If any of those appear, it’s likely a scam. 

#5: The message is designed to make you panic.

The principal way that scammers trick people into believing suspicious emails is by creating a sense of urgency or panic. 

Oftentimes, phishing emails claim that your account has been compromised or it will be closed if you don’t act immediately and verify your login credentials. Even if you’re concerned, take a moment to think and consider if what they’re asking makes sense. If you’re the slightest bit skeptical, we recommend calling the company to verify the request.

The bottom line

If you share your private information, click on a suspicious link, or download an illegitimate attachment, the ramifications could be detrimental to your device or private information. It’s important that you follow our tips and remember: When in doubt, throw it out

If you’re skeptical of an email that you receive, just delete it—it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can always call or contact the company through a different method if you’re truly concerned about your account.

Looking to improve your company’s email security? 

With a wide range of comprehensive cyber security and compliance packages, our team is well-equipped to protect your business from all types of scams. Each of our IT packages and services can be uniquely tailored to fit your business’s individual needs. 

Ready to get started?

Contact us today to learn more.


1: Federal Trade Commission (1)

2: FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

3: Federal Trade Commission (2) 

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