There’s a lot of really great advice out there on things NOT to do if someone is trying to scam you. As a matter of fact, we’ve talked about some of this stuff before. We’ve talked about how you shouldn’t click on hyperlinks in emails and how you shouldn’t give out your Social Security number when shopping online.
One of my personal favorites is what James Veitch did about spam in his mailbox. If you haven’t checked out his TedTalks, you definitely should. I still go back and watch that video when I need a quick pick-me-up.
All that advice is great, but it assumes one thing — you know when you’re being scammed.
Before you can avoid a scam, you have to learn to identify when you’re being scammed. Here are a few foolproof ways you can tell.
- The email doesn’t use your name
An amazing 49.7 percent of the content in everyone’s inbox is spam. That’s almost half of your emails!
With so much junk going into your mailbox, it stands to reason that at least one of those emails is likely to trip you up.
The first thing to notice when you open up an email is whether or not it uses your name. Any account you’ve signed up for, whether it’s a financial institution, a music download service, or something else, will use your name. If it’s spam, they’ll use your email address, or they’ll simply say something like “Dear Client”.
- Check the spelling
One of the easiest ways to tell if an email is spam is to comb through the content looking for spelling errors. Professional emails won’t have any, while spam emails will.
Some spelling errors are so obvious you may wonder how they could get even the simplest words so wrong. They actually do it on purpose. They know if you’re willing to overlook spelling errors, you’ll be easier to scam. Don’t fall for it, no matter how urgent the message seems.
- The email address doesn’t match the name of the sender
Always check the name of the sender and compare it to the actual email that’s being sent. When emails end up in your inbox, they can be identified by whatever the sender wants you to see. That name may seem legit, but a closer look at the actual email address being used reveals they aren’t who they say they are.
For example, I recently received an email from “PayPal”. The sender listed was “email@example.com” which seems legitimate. But the actual address the email was being sent from was “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Definitely spam.
- A text message comes from an unknown number and contains a clickable link
Spam isn’t just found in your inbox. Scammers are increasingly using text messages as a way to scam people out of their money and their personal information.
How can you tell if the text message you’re getting is a scam? First, take a close look at the number. If you don’t recognize it, and the person doesn’t immediately identify themselves, it’s likely a scam.
You should also look to see if the text message contains a clickable link. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t follow the link. If the text discusses a real account that you have, visit the website independently and log in to see if the text message checks out instead of clicking on that link.
- Someone calls asking you for your information
Scammers are still using the phone, although it is occurring less and less often. The reason why they’re still hanging onto the phone scam is that it is one of the most convincing ways to scam somebody.
The best way to figure out if you’re being scammed over the phone is if someone calls you asking you for your information. If they call you, they should already have much of the information they need, especially when it comes to essential personal information like Social Security numbers and bank account numbers. If in doubt, ask to call the person back, and then look up the correct phone number online to see if it matches the callback number they give you.
Unfortunately, scammers are getting better and better at what they do, which means scamming is on the rise. Prepare yourself by knowing how not to get scammed, and make sure you can identify scams in the first place with these tips.