Ugh, spam. As used to it as we are, every time we receive a piece of what is clearly “junk” mail, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of annoyance. You might find yourself thinking, didn’t I already flag this to go into my junk mailbox? Or, how did this get through? It’s clearly spam. Or worse: I unsubscribed from this weeks ago, how is it still showing up here? Any and all of the above seems to be deemed a part of our seemingly hopeless cyber reality.
But wait...it gets worse. Unfortunately for us, with the advancement of spam filters, spam-creators have also gotten more advanced at making content that confuses—gets us believing it might be legitimate. And before you know it, you’re clicking on that email, a link, perhaps, and maybe even being directed to an outside website. What’s one to do once you’re in that deep? The answer is not much. The best thing you can do is to be aware of certain telltale signs of spam. To save you some time and aggravation, we’ve listed 4 of the most common ways to spot spam before it’s too late.
- Grammatical or Spelling Errors
If you receive an email with more than two or three spelling errors, trash it. One error you might chalk up to a misstep on an iPhone keyboard, but anything much past that doesn’t bode well. I recently opened an email that spelled PAYPAl as such—not ‘PAYPAL’. It was clever, and I didn’t notice until I got to the end of the email (which claimed there has been some odd activity occurring on my account) when they spelled ‘sincerely’ incorrectly. As soon as I saw that, it went right to the trash.
- Odd URLs or URLs that Redirect
A re-direction to a '404 Error’ URL, for instance, is a telltale sign that the email you just clicked into is spam. Don’t second guess yourself and assume that perhaps it was just a mistake on their part—that there really is a legitimate website buried in there somewhere… because more likely than not, that isn’t the case.
For a while back in 2014, the web was riddled with phishing scams. Phishing, in case you were lucky enough to get out of that year unscathed and don’t know what it means, is a fake website that mimics a credible source's sign in procedure in order to trick you into disclosing your personal information. They're not too difficult to spot, if you've got a keen eye, so be aware of emails coming into your inbox with a generic greeting, or urgent action required memo (as further discussed below).
- Poor Graphic Layout, or Sounds Too Good to be True
These next two are pretty intuitive: if it looks fake, it probably is—and likewise, if it sounds too good to be true, well… sorry to report on that one as well. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. So if a site looks like maybe it’s just having some functionality issues—maybe their email even came through with a disclaimer saying something to that effect—look further into it via Google or Yahoo. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find a forum or two discussing scams like this.
For some reason, I keep receiving emails that claim, "You're in luck!" in the subject line, and then in a preview, I can see "You've been offered a huge amount of money to participate as a 'mystery shopper'”. Okay, that might sound like an obvious scam, but if you’ve worked in the retail world, you know that mystery-shopping jobs exist. So to me (the first time around), this didn’t seem too good to be true at all! It seemed like my years of retail work were finally paying off… not so fast: just a perfect example of ‘too good to be true’ at work.
- Reach Out to You Claiming that You Have an Urgent Computer Problem that They Can Solve
This one probably seems rather specific—and it is, but you’d be surprised how many times this happens to us, an Inbound marketing agency with an IT professional at our masthead… as if we wouldn’t know that we had an urgent computer problem? For those of you who do not have IT experience on your staff, or say, in your home, if an email like this comes to your personal mailbox—it’s safest to assume that it is spam, and just get rid of it.
As much as email filters have advanced, they shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to our information and simply being aware of common signs of spam can make all the difference. Don’t forget, you can usually always get more information if you’re uncertain with a quick Google search or even calling a company directly with a number you know is safe.
Have you had a personal experience with scams coming through your email? Or worse, have you been duped? Let us know. And start keeping these tips top of mind when you’re checking your email. They’ll help keep you out of trouble—promise!
Can-Do Ideas is a Digital Marketing agency specializing in Inbound Marketing and Brand Storytelling.