Have you ever accidentally deleted (or clicked on something in) an email that you immediately regretted?
I certainly have!
As business owners and managers we’re all busy. In our best efforts to maximize time, we might find ourselves hurriedly checking email while riding a subway, in between and during meetings and, gasp, while sitting in traffic.
Why do we do this? Because we don’t want cluttered inboxes! Yet in our rush to clear emails, we can overlook critical details.
And this is exactly what cyber criminals are hoping for.
Earlier this year I almost handed over my bank account information when I received an email purporting to be from PayPal. Take a look at a screenshot of that email below:
I originally viewed this email on my phone. Thankfully, when I looked at the email again on my computer I was able to see that the email was clearly a fraud. Can you detect the areas of the email indicating its fraudulence?
Below is another screenshot of the same email with “red flags”:
Red Flag #1: the words Pay and Pal have a space in between them and the email extension is not [@paypal.com].
Red Flag #2: there is a space in between “he” and “ar” in the email’s subject line. The actual word should be “hear”.
Red Flag #3: there are several attachments in the email – actual emails from PayPal are unlikely to have such attachments
Red Flag #4: this is a fake PayPal logo. Look towards the right for the real PayPal logo.
Red Flag #5: the “Resolve now” button is probably the easiest flag to spot since it is prompting a click through to a website.
You may find the following tips helpful as you check your email’s inbox:
- Familiarize yourself with the branding of companies that you currently (or expect to) do business with. The above example highlights PayPal. There are also many scammers who send fraudulent emails misrepresenting famous online retailers like eBay and Amazon.
- Sort through emails when you are alert. If you see an email that requires more time to process, mark it as unread and save it for review at a later time. Once you review those saved emails, read them on a larger tablet or computer screen. You might be able to catch things that are not as visible on a smaller phone screen.
- Dedicate a specific time to sort through email. Yes, I know, this can be difficult but it really is important to not only be alert when reviewing emails but to also be focused. This might mean having to close the doors to your office or sit somewhere with no interruptions for at least 15 minutes.
Protecting Your Company’s Brand
- Send messages as soon as possible to your customers reminding them of how you are likely to communicate between now and the end of the year. Encourage them to call you directly if they get a “strange” email, text, or voice mail message from you or a representative of your company.
- Get an email address with your company’s name as the extension. It’s too easy for scammers to use a Gmail or Yahoo account to misrepresent you or your company.
As a busy entrepreneur, you work hard to maintain your company’s good name and brand image. Developing an eagle’s eye is important as you sort and read email. Fraud, hoaxes and scams come in many flavors and are not limited to large corporations – small businesses can (and are) also be targeted. Unfortunately, spam filters do not catch all fraudulent emails and cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated by the day.
Become vigilant, not paranoid, and infuse your current processes with these tips. Train all of your employees to be equally vigilant.
Have you avoided an online fraudulent email? Please share your stories with our community of readers by leaving a comment below.