When was the last time you nearly got caught out by spam mail? Go on, you can tell us. We won’t tell anyone. The fact is, spam mail and scams are getting more and more sophisticated, with new approaches being developed every day. I, for example, was almost caught out by an email pretending to be from a town council informing you of a traffic violation, and to contest it you should click the link. My mouse was hovering over the link before I was reminded by a more alert family member that councils don’t send you emails about that sort of thing – they send you letters. When I looked closer, I realised that the ‘violation’ was in an area I had never been to, and the email itself was shoddy. It was simply the fact that an official seal was on it that made me panic. And I’m an expert of security and scamming! So how do you spot these scams and avoid clicking on those links or calling those numbers?
Check The Grammar
If you’re ever looking for a single fool proof way of finding out if a piece of post or an email is genuine, look hard at the grammar and spelling. Many of these scams are put together in foreign countries by people whose first language isn’t English, and they have often gone through translation programs. This means they are littered with spelling mistakes, poor grammar and sometimes sentences that simply don’t make sense. The scammers try to compensate for this by making the message look as close to a genuine communication as possible. So if you’re ever in doubt – check the grammar!
If you’re trying to figure out if an email is suspicious or not, rather than clicking on a link, just hover your mouse over it instead. This will show you a preview of the URL the link leads to, which is a great indicator of whether it’s legitimate or not. If the email is coming from an ‘official’ source, like a bank, council or other government department, then the link should go to their official site. If you’re not sure what that is, open up a browser window and Google it to find out what the real link is, and compare it. For example, for governmental bodies in the UK, it will always have .gov ending and follow a particular format. If the link doesn’t look right, don’t click on it, and instead get in touch with the organisation yourself to report the impersonation.
What’s The Hook?
With physical post, it can be a bit trickier to figure out if it’s real or not (especially with no links to hover over!). Junk mail is pushed through our letter boxes every day, and some of it does a really good job or pretending to be ‘real, important’ post. If the letter has come to you out of the blue (always a bad sign) you aren’t sure if it’s legit or not, take a closer look for the ‘hook’. If it’s a letter informing you that you’ve won a lottery or competition and they need your bank details to send you your prize, think – did you actually enter that competition or play that lottery? Odds are you probably didn’t, and it’s just a scam to get your details. If they are trying to tell you they that need money in advance for something, are told you have to respond quickly (so don’t have time to think or talk to friends and family) or are told to keep it a secret, these are all big red flags for a scam.
Above all, if it looks too good to be true… it probably is. Scammers are getting cleverer, and it’s important for us to stay one step ahead. This includes being careful with what information we leave lying around or give away, even accidentally. While many scams are out for a quick buck, many more and playing the long game and gathering your information so they can commit fraud or steal your identity. So remember to keep your data safe folks, and always shred it, don’t bin it! For more information about keeping your paper based data safe from thieves, get in touch with one of our experts today.