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Identifying Email Scams

How to Spot An Email Hoax

How can you tell a forwarded email hoax from a legitimate article? Without researching the factual claims in a given text there’s no 100 percent sure-fire way to tell it if it’s a hoax, but here’s a list of common signs to watch for.

Tell-tale signs of an email hoax:

  1. Check to see whether the text you’ve received was actually written by the person who sent it to you. Look for the abbreviations “FWD” or “FW” (meaning “forward”) in the subject line. Does the body of the message look like a boilerplate (copied and pasted) text? If so, be skeptical. Don’t assume the sender can or will vouch for the email’s contents.
  2. Look for the telltale phrase “Forward this to everyone you know!” or similar encouragements to share the message. The more urgent the plea, the more suspicious you should be.
  3. Look for statements like “This is NOT a hoax” or “This is NOT an urban legend.” They typically turn out to mean the opposite of what they say.
  4. Be wary of overly emphatic language, as well as the frequent use of UPPERCASE LETTERS and multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!
  5. If the text seems aimed more at persuading readers than informing them, be skeptical. Especially where political content is concerned. Like propagandists, hoaxers are more interested in pushing people’s emotional buttons and/or inciting them to action than communicating accurate information.
  6. If the message purports to impart extremely valuable information that you’ve never heard of before, or read elsewhere in legitimate sources, don’t assume it’s true. Do some research to verify the facts before buying into it or sharing it with others.
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