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Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Did you get here because you thought the title of the article was important?? That's an example of a phishing email scam! Generally speaking, a phishing ("fishing") email scam is designed to make you click on a link or reply, so that you will give out extra information.

Sometimes the link in the email takes you to a bogus webmail site where you have to enter your real login details, which then get sent to the scammer. Other times they just want you to respond so that they can try and trick you into something else (do you really have a long lost relative from Nigeria who wants to give lots of gold to you??).

Whatever the reason, it's always good to break out your detective skills and see if you can identify the scam. Here are 3 top tips to identify scam emails.

1. Was the email expected?

This is the easiest and first "sanity check". It's a good indicator that the email might not be real if:

  • You are told you have a TNT parcel waiting for confirmation, but you aren't aware of ordering anything

  • You are told you have won $100 (or $1M !) but you know you haven't entered a competition for this

2. Does the sender have an email address that you can recognise as real?

This might sound intuitive, but did you know that some email programs "hide" the email address behind the "friendly" name? Because of this, you might need to hover your mouse over the senders name to get it to show you. You really want to make sure it's from and not just "SirTech Accountans" (mis-spelling intended!).

3. Does the email reference you by name?

What do the following email greetings have in common:

  • Dear Valued Customer

  • Dear Members

  • Attention Account Holder

Answer - the sender doesn't seem to know who you are! If the email starts like this, then goes on to tell you that your "ATO account is overdue and needs action", then it's probably a scam!

You can also find the more tips from our Australian Cyber Security Centre and ACCC ScamWatch websites.

There are many scams that are even craftier than this, but the above 3 tips should help you easily weed out all of the simple ones. More complicated scams can be detected by good email security software, and also by taking part in courses to improve your detective skills.



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