How To Spot An Email Scam/Chain Email

Now I know many people will already be familiar with this and most people these days can recognise a spam or junk email - especially when it mentions all those important pills that can do wonders for certain parts of the anatomy but some emails are getting better and are more difficult to spot and there are still people who fall for the more obvious, older spams doing the rounds.

I know that I don't have a bank account with Halifax or Nat West, so I can safely ignore those emails saying my account information needs to be verified but if you do just happen to have an account with the particular bank that has apparently emailed you, you might think twice and even be tempted to click on the link - particularly when they include all the logos and an apparently valid website address and it all looks very official.

Here are a few tips to spot the scams:

1. Check the status bar at the bottom of the screen (if it's switched on) when you hoover over a link in an email. It's then pretty obvious to see that the link differs from the company purporting to have sent you the email. The text might say www.halifax.co.uk but in the status bar it shows as something different. They usually include the company address but something along the lines of http://alivoo.com/www.halifax.co.uk/.... or www.halifax.cs and then a string of letters and numbers or some other spurious domain.

2. Language is usually a give-away too. The grammar or spelling will be slightly suspect. Some are worse and more obvious than others. Banks will always address you by name and will never request your log in or personal information by email. Most phishing emails address you as 'Dear Customer'.

3. Install McAfee Site Advisor - or something similar. If you happen to click on a 'phishing' email - they'll block you from going directly to the page - put up a warning message that the site is a known phishing/scam site or source of spam.

4. If ANY email says forward this all your friends - DON'T. 9 times out of 10 or 99 times out of 100 they're nothing more than a chain email, they're not going to bring you untold riches if you forward it on or bring you loads of luck in the next 24 hours or find a missing child - who was never lost in the first place. Even if it says as verified by Oprah, Bill Gates or the Wessex Constabulary or whoever ... doesn't make it any more valid.

5. If there's a file attached- don't open it unless you know the person who's sent it to you. If it's a zip file attached - it's highly likely to be a virus.

6. If in doubt about the validity of an email and it's contents, check out www.breakthechain.org or www.snopes.com for all those urban myths, chain emails that do the rounds but you may not yet have come across. Our inboxes are full enough as it is without adding to them.

Install a good virus application, use a spam filter and you'll reduce the amount that gets through in the first place.
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