How To Detect Fake Emails

I know you’re probably tired of SWTOR stuff.  Or maybe you aren’t, but something new won’t kill you.  I’ve seen a lot of people lately asking if an email is fake or not.  Below is my bit to help the gaming community identify these fake emails, using real examples, and a blast from my/our past(s)!

Avoiding Fake Email Scams

Everyone has an email address.  Everyone also gets fake emails.  The purpose of fake emails is to steal personal information, or implant a virus or other malware on your computer.  Usually fake emails are pretty easy to identify, but sometimes fake emails are well crafted.

Identifying fake emails can be very simple.  I obviously can’t promise to help you avoid all fake emails, but I can show you how to avoid most.  As gamers, we get fake emails trying to steal our game information all the time.  The emails I am about to show you are real, and were sent to me.  I’m going to show you the first believable-at-first-glance fake email I got, and then how I identified it as a fake email.

First Good Fake Email

Click on the fake email above to see a breakdown.  It’s safe – it’s not the actual fake email, it’s a picture.  You’ll notice I have broken down this fake email into four major identifiable clues.

Fake Email Claims and Threats

Number one on the list of ways to identify a fake email is a false claim, and an empty threat.  A fake email may claim you have done something wrong.  It will then threaten you with consequences unless you take some action.  Taking the action is where they get your information of course.  With the fake email above, it claims I am trying to sell my account, and then threatens me with having my account terminated.  I have never tried to sell my account, so I already knew it was a fake email.

Fake Emails Have Fake Links

Number two on the list of identifying fake emails is looking for fake links.  In the above email, number two looks like a legitimate link.  However, when I hovered my mouse cursor over the link, and then looked at the bottom left corner of my browser, they did not match.  When you mouseover a link, the link in the bottom left corner of your browser will be the actual destination.  Mouse over the below link to see what I mean.  Don’t worry, it’s safe.

If you can’t see the link at the bottom of your browser, or both links don’t match, do not click the link.  It will likely take you to a harmful website and attempt to steal your personal information.

Also shown here are links that appear to be official.  It could also look very similar with a quick glance.   See example 3b?  wow-europe is not an official domain.  Throughout the email the address is, and suddenly it’s different.  Another example would be: versus

Fake Email Regional Clues

I live in the United States.  The above email starts out claiming to be from a US company, but then it starts mentioning Europe.  So is the email coming from the US, or Europe?  This is a big clue that you have a fake email.  Notice the address it gives too.  If you’re familiar with the US, that is not a valid address.  You could even go so far as to put the address into Google maps and see what pops up.

Fake Email Grammar

This particular fake email identifier has improved over time, but has so far proven true.  Number four here is the poor grammar wording used in the email.  4a should be Customer Service, not Customer Services.  4b should be “if you do not wish to have your account banned”.  Multi-million dollar companies or professional organizations are not going to send you poorly worded messages.  Some fake emails have bad grammar because the senders do not speak your native language.  Other fake email senders may not even know their word usage is bad.

Other Fake Email Clues

If you didn’t sign up for a free gift or sweepstakes, it’s probably a fake email.  If you don’t even know anyone from the country your prize is coming from, it’s a fake email.  If you didn’t order anything from Target or Wal-Mart or wherever you shop online, it’s probably a fake email.  Look through the spam folder in your email.  You will see many examples of fake emails.  Occasionally I find legitimate emails in my spam folder, so it’s good to check every so often.  Just be careful not to click any links, or open any attachments.

What To Do With Fake Emails

Take an extra moment to verify you are clicking on a valid website address.  Unless I am one hundred percent sure it is a valid email, I do not click on email links.  I will manually type them in my browser address bar for shorter links, or highlight and copy if the link is longer.  Do not use the ‘Copy Link address’ option.  Use Copy or Copy Text.

If it is a fake email, you should mark it as spam if you can, or delete it. Marking it as spam can help your email provider identify persistent scam artists.  Whatever you do, don’t click the link.

If you want more practice, look at the fake email below.  Using what you learned above, tell me what one the potential clues are in the comments.  (Save some for others)  Now GROUP EXERCISE!  GO!

P.S. Please pass this on if you find it useful.  You could save a friend some considerable trouble in the future.

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2 Responses

  1. Aydrien says:

    Great info. It can also be helpful to see if the company being spoofed collects these emails to help them track down scammers, particularly if it’s a company you do business with yourself. Back when I was playing WoW, Blizzard had an email you could forward these type of letters to so that they could pursue legal action against the sender where possible. The trick is you have to make sure to include all the headers from the original message when you send it, which most email services don’t do by default. Checking the help or customer service of the company’s website (remember, type it in, don’t use the link in the email!) should have information on that if they do collect them.

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