How to spot a spoof email

The world seems to be spinning faster and faster, the weeks, months, and days flying by. We barely have enough time to get through everything as it is, let alone scrutinize the hundred-odd emails we receive each day to check if they’re fake or not. But not being aware and checking could cost you everything.

In a recent blog post, we touched on the fact that both tech giants—Facebook and Google—had been defrauded over $100 000 million in a few short years through spoof email scams. It can literally happen to anyone. Don’t let yourself be one of them.

The damage from spoofing—even if restricted to a single attack—can range from identity theft to business downtime, loss of reputation and multi-million rand losses.

Let us show you how to specifically spot and check a spoof email. Here are three easy guidelines to help you discern whether you may be looking at a potential spoof mail:

1. Display Name Spoofing

The email appears to come from a familiar or trusted sender BUT the email address does NOT correspond. It could appear to be coming from your bank, a friend, or a person in another company you deal with regularly, but you need to check the email address – does it correspond? Sometimes the sender and the domain may even look legitimate but there is one way of finding out – proceed as if you are going to reply to the mail (DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINKS IN THE MAIL) and check what email address comes up. Here are some examples of display name spoofing to look out for:

The above email is a fake address – the organization does not align with the sender. You can always go to the sender address (mailed-by:) and check what that website sells. In this case is a mobile service provider; it has nothing to do with the content of the email. The same applies for the below example.

The example below, however, is legitimate. Whilst this is a promotional email, the emails address sender corresponds legitimately with the website (signed-by:). The website is also verifiable and corresponds with the message of the mail. Note: there is no security warning.

Can you tell the difference?

2. Call-to-Action Links and Downloads

All spoof emails will either address subjects such as;

  • payments and memberships
  • expired subscriptions and products
  • shipment confirmation
  • free gifts and vouchers/codes
  • magic solutions to subjects like quick finance, cash prizes
  • weight loss and health-related topics or products

A simple rule of thumb here – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The single most important action to NOT take is to click on the link or open any attachments with the email.

By acting on these prompts, you will most likely open your device open to viruses and phishing software. Below are some examples:


3. Uncertified Email Signatures

Most often spoof emails will end off without a certified brand footer or incorrect branding and company details. One way to check if the branding is correct is to check any other emails from an organization that you believe they may be impersonating—like a banking institution or similar—and compare them. The below example is an imposter email signature.

Secondly, most legitimate email signatures and footers will come with a disclaimer. The below disclaimer is a legitimate footer for a mail from PayPal. How do you know? The link to the website is legitimate. No scammer will direct you to a legitimate website as it could expose their covert operations.

We hope these tips help you in spotting any spoof emails in future and take the right action on them – absolutely nothing other than deleting them.

Click through for more details on our team and our services or give us a call at 021 531 5180.

Doing business better. Together.

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