Privacy and security / January 31, 2024

Don't get fooled: how to spot scams in your inbox

Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee

Senior Program Manager, Tech for Good & TELUS Wise

Senior checking their email on tablet

Email has become an integral part of our lives. We rely on it for communication, work, and staying connected with friends and family. However, with the convenience of email comes the risk of falling victim to scams and online threats. According to Statista, an average of 347 billion emails are sent per day globally, making it a breeding ground for malicious activities.

Phishing emails are one of the most common types of email scams. These deceptive emails are designed to trick recipients into downloading malicious attachments, clicking on harmful links, or visiting fraudulent websites where they are prompted to provide confidential information. The volume, complexity, and risk associated with phishing emails are on the rise, making it crucial for individuals to be vigilant and informed.

To protect yourself from falling victim to phishing emails, keep these tips in mind:

Pay attention to the sender: If you receive an email from an unfamiliar sender or an email you haven't subscribed to, proceed with caution. Take a closer look at the email address itself, as scammers often use misspelled domain names (e.g [email protected]) or a string of letters and characters to deceive recipients. Alternatively, a malicious email may appear as though it comes from a legitimate organization (e.g. UPS) however when you look more closely at the email address, you’ll see that it is associated with another domain. These are good clues for identifying illegitimate emails.

Be wary of requests for personal information: Reputable organizations, banks, and government bodies will never ask you to validate or update personal information via email. If you receive an email asking for sensitive data, such as your social security number or banking details, it is likely a phishing attempt. To verify the legitimacy of such requests, contact the organization directly using the contact information from a trusted source, such as a statement or the official website. Never use the contact information provided in the email or that you see on the website the email directs you to (that is if you click, though we recommend you don’t!).

Look out for errors and urgent asks: Phishing emails often contain noticeable grammar or spelling mistakes, though bad actors are increasingly relying on generative AI (e.g. tools like ChatGPT) to improve the quality of phishing emails, making it harder for us to identify them as fraudulent emails. Additionally, be cautious of emails that use threatening language or create a sense of urgency, as scammers employ these tactics to manipulate recipients into taking immediate action. Vague email content is another tactic used to entice recipients to click on links or open attachments for more information.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: Emails claiming that you have won a contest, received a large sum of money from an unknown relative, or promising unbelievable offers should be treated with skepticism. Scammers often use these tactics to lure unsuspecting individuals into their traps.

Trust your instincts and report suspicious emails: If you have any doubts about the authenticity of an email, trust your instincts and refrain from clicking on any links or downloading attachments. Instead, report the fraudulent email to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or email provider. Always be cautious of emails that land in your junk mailbox or are flagged as spam or unsafe. These warnings are often indicators of potentially harmful content, and it is best to delete such messages without engaging with them.

By following these tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to email scams. It is essential to stay informed and remain vigilant in our digital world. To learn more about avoiding online scams check out this video. For more information on how to stay safe online, sign up for the TELUS Wise newsletter.

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