Can You Spot A Spam Email?

Key points:

  • Spam emails are dangerous and time-wasting
  • Do you know how to spot a fake email?
  • Check out the top five signs of spam below

How To Tell If An Email Is Spam

Spam and other email-based cybercrime scams are incredibly common—how confident are you that you could spot a dangerous email when it comes into your inbox?

How To Identify A Scam

Filtering out spam emails isn’t just about reducing clutter—it’s about eliminating threats. Are you letting dangerous emails into your inbox?

What do you think email filters are for?

You might assume they’re just to keep your inbox from getting cluttered with bogus sales notifications, scams, and other junk mail. Actually, that’s just part of the benefit of a spam filter.

In addition to keeping your inbox neat, it also protects you against dangerous emails…

5 Signs It’s A Scam

As a social engineering method, email scams rely directly on the target’s lack of awareness. The less a given user knows about email scams, the less likely they’ll be able to spot a scam email.

Here are 5 signs that an email may be a scam attempt by a cybercriminal:


Does the email come from an address you don’t recognize? That’s your first sign that something isn’t right. If you don’t recognize the sender, you need to be suspicious of what they’re saying.

Spelling and Grammar

When reading a suspicious email, keep an eye out for any typos or glaring errors. Whereas legitimate messages from your bank or vendors would be properly edited, scam emails are notorious for basic spelling and grammatical mistakes.


Whereas legitimate senders will likely have your information already (such as your first name) and will use it in the salutation, scammers will often employ vaguer terminology, such as “Valued Customer”—this allows them to use the same email for multiple targets in a mass attack.

Urgent and Threatening

If the subject line makes it sound like an emergency (“Your account has been suspended”, or “You’re being hacked”) that’s another red flag. It’s in the scammer’s interest to make you panic and move quickly, which might lead to you overlooking other indicators that it’s a scam email.


If the email contains a hyperlink that you are urged to click, that’s a dead giveaway. The scammer is likely trying to send you to a webpage that will record your login information, or get you to download dangerous malware.

Why These Scams Work

The reality is that cybercriminals can keep using the same old techniques because users keep falling for the exact same tactics without ever seeming to learn the cybersecurity measures needed to protect against them.

The key to these types of scams is that they don’t rely on digital security vulnerabilities or cutting-edge hacking technology; social engineering targets the user, who, without the right training, will always be a security risk.

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Scammers?

As with any social engineering technique, the key is that you can’t automatically trust what you’re being told. If you receive an email claiming to be from your bank, be skeptical, and think before you act.

Call or visit the appropriate party directly before providing any sensitive information, or taking any action. No matter how urgent the call may sound, you should always take time to verify what you’re being told, and who is telling it to you.