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How to spot a scam email

14th December 2017

A suspicious scam email purporting to be from Microsoft has been circulating recently. This is just one of a number of scams that fraudsters are using to steal both money and highly sensitive information from individuals and businesses. Back in 2015 we told you about the fraudulent scheme duping £££s from UK businesses.

To help you identify a fraudulent email and safeguard yourself and your business from the scammers, check out our 8 tips of what to look out for:

1. ‘From’ address

While the ‘from’ name may appear genuine, the ‘from’ email address can be a real giveaway. In this case the ‘from’ address used is fairly suspicious and not one Microsoft would use.

2. Serious email subject

Fraudsters regularly exaggerate the seriousness of the email using words like ‘Alert’ in the email subject header.

3. Impersonal greeting line

There’s no doubt the sophisticated scammer of 2017 is more than capable of creating an email that includes our first name in the greeting line. But, if the greeting line is impersonal, for example Hi email address or Hi customer, it could be a scam.

4. Poor spelling, grammar and presentation

Most companies will have a dedicated team working on communications and would never allow a mass email like this to go out to customers. Presentation errors such as different fonts or font sizes are another tell-tale sign. If you notice obvious mistakes in an email, it might be a scam.

5. Demands that you take immediate action

The email may urge you to take action or face account closure. In this case, we’re told our Microsoft account has been locked from both sending and receiving mail and will remain locked until we click the link.

6. Suspicious links

Here we’re encouraged to click a link and ‘SIGN-IN FROM A FAMILIAR LOCATION’. However, simple investigation reveals a bizarre looking web address definitely not belonging to Microsoft. Hovering your mouse over the link should reveal the link’s destination and help you understand more about the legitimacy of the email.

7. Inconsistent headers and footers

It’s worth comparing the consistency of the headers and footers used in the email with previous emails you’ve received from that company. In this case a poor quality Microsoft Office 365 logo is used and the footer bares no resemblance to Microsoft’s normal email footer.

8. Check with the sender

This is not a definitive list and some emails are very deceiving. If you’re unsure about the origins of an email and suspect it may be a scam, get in touch with the person or company directly via phone or social media. They’ll tell you if the email is from them and also what email address they’ll contact you from. Importantly, if the email is a scam, delete it; do not click any links or reply to it.

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