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From the Tech Desk: How to Identify a Fake or Scam Email

Scam or fake emails (called phishing, see our article here on the topic) are a digital pandemic. Here are some tips to identify them.

Here are some specific examples to identify scam emails- some are classics and some are in vogue right now. What do they all have in common? They want you to click a link, call someone, or take some other action - usually urgently.

Don't do it!

Signs an email is a scam:

Friends in distress, fake lawyers with settlements in your favor, and Nigerian princes

If you receive an email from a friend claiming to be in trouble, a lawyer saying you have won a settlement, or a Nigerian prince who wants to send you some money, delete it. It is a scam. If you want to check on a friend based on an email you have received, give them a call.

Spelling errors, bad grammar, poor formatting

If you receive an email from a US company or government agency containing any of these it is a scam, even if it is using the logo of a legitimate organization. No corporation or government agency in the US will send you an email that is not perfectly polished and professional. They will be well formatted, free of spelling and grammatical errors, and will use a standard font.

Threats and Drama

Do this now or else! is never something any US company or government entity will put in an email. If someone is suing you they will send you registered mail or a process server. If you want to verify that you really do not owe the IRS or Microsoft $63,000,000.00 call them on their listed telephone number. Don't use google to find telephone numbers! Google is full of scammers publishing fake telephone numbers!

Fake membership receipts or click to renew notices

You may receive a receipt for a purchase (gym membership, magazine subscription, McAfee or Geek Squad renewal) that you don't recognize. These are very often scams to get you to make a call or click a link. If you feel you have been charged for something fraudulently or you are not sure, check your credit card or bank statements. Do not respond to the email! If you are not sure you need to renew a product, contact the company directly.

Weird, long email or website addresses

Return addresses or websites such as,, are likely scammers. They use legitimate sounding names as part of their address to make themselves sound legitimate, but it is a sign that something is amiss.

Big buttons to "Press Now!"

If you see these, chances are it is a scam. When in doubt, look up the phone number for the company contacting you and call them directly. If you don't know the number, contact directory assistance. Don't use google! Google is full of scammers publishing fake telephone numbers,

What should you do?

If you receive an email that looks odd don't click anything in it, just delete it. Just receiving an email generally does not place your computer in danger. That is why the scammers want you to call, click or take some other action. Often urgently.

Still not sure if an email is legitimate?

You can always give us a call if you have questions about an email you have received - we are happy to give you our opinion as to whether it is legitimate or not. Call us at 888-716-7546 or click the button below (this one is OK; you didn't receive it attached to a random email!)


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