How to identify a scam email

Learning how to tell the difference between legitimate emails and scams could prevent you from being targeted.

Scam emails masquerading as communications from your bank, phone/internet provider, post office or other companies are on the rise. While they may appear just like a real email on the surface, there are some ways to help you determine fact from fiction.

Ask yourself these 5 questions to help you determine if the email is real or a scam.

Have you received an email from this company before?
If, for example, your bank of the last decade suddenly sends you an email and they haven’t done so in the past – this is a red flag for a scam.

Does the email address seem legitimate?
A strange or convoluted email domain (such as should not be trusted. However, you must be alert, as savvy scammers can produce convincing fakes when it comes to email address and sender.

Are there any grammatical or spelling errors?
While we all make mistakes, an email you receive from a large company will typically be from a template or an automated response, which shouldn’t have any errors in it. One error is suspicious, several is a dead giveaway.

Does the email have an attachment and are the links unusual?
It’s not common for a business to email you an attachment out of the blue so be cautious if you see one, especially if it is a .zip, .rar, .dmg or .exe file. Also make sure you don’t click on any of the links. Instead, hover your mouse over them and your computer will tell you where they lead – if it doesn’t look like they lead to a legitimate website, delete the email.

Does it ask for credit card information, passwords, or other personal details?
These are all things that 99% of companies will not ask you for because of the risk that is posed by emailing the information into the digital world. And any real company that asks for this information is thinking of itself before its customers.

Last but not least …

The golden rule which will prevent you from ever falling victim to email scams:

Don’t click on any links.

If you think a company is trying to get in touch with you, get back to them without using the suspicious email. Clicking a link in the email is likely to direct you to a very convincing copy of the website where anything you do will be recorded and sent to scammers – including entering your name, password and financial details.

To avoid this, open a separate internet window and search for the company or look it up in the phonebook, and get in touch with them that way.

If you have already clicked on an email you should run a virus scan on the device you used to open the suspicious email.


If you think you have detected a scam, remember to report it to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website.

Related articles:
Top three free antivirus programs
How does your device get a virus?
The top three online scams revealed

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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