How to Tell if an Email is Real:

Your Ultimate Guide to Spotting Fake Emails

In today's digital age, email communication has become a cornerstone of our daily lives. However, this prevalence has given rise to a significant increase in fraudulent emails or "phishing" attempts. According to a report by Verizon, phishing accounts for 36% of data breaches. Recognizing a legitimate email has thus never been more crucial. This guide will provide practical steps to ensure the authenticity of an email, safeguarding your personal information in the process.

Check the Sender’s Email Address

Phishing attempts often come from an email address that looks suspicious or similar to a legitimate one, with subtle misspellings or domain changes. It's essential to check the email address, not just the sender's name. For instance, legitimate emails from Amazon will always come from an address ending in "" Therefore, an email from "" should immediately raise red flags.

Analyze the Content and Tone

Legitimate companies adhere to professional standards in their communications. Be wary of emails riddled with grammatical errors or those that adopt a tone inciting urgency or fear. An email from your bank, for instance, will never rush you to "act immediately" or threaten account deactivation. Consult the FTC's guidelines on recognizing phishing scams for more insight.

Examine the Links

Without clicking, hover your mouse over any link in the email. Check the bottom-left of your screen for the link address that pops up. If the address looks odd or does not match the context of the email, it's likely fraudulent. Utilize resources like VirusTotal to scan any dubious links.

Look for Generic Greetings

Generic greetings like "Dear User" or "Hello, Member" can be signs of phishing attempts. Authentic emails from services you're registered with will often use your full name. Remember, any company with which you have an account has your details and will use them appropriately.

Don't Download Attachments

Unsolicited emails with attachments are a red flag. These attachments can contain malware that infects your device upon download. If you receive an unexpected attachment, even from a known contact, verify its authenticity by contacting the sender through other means before opening.

Check the Signature

Legitimate businesses often include contact information within the email signature. If the email lacks these details, it could be a sign of a scam. Genuine companies proudly showcase their contact information, encouraging customers to engage with them.

Use Email Authentication

Use built-in features like Gmail’s Authentication to verify a sender's identity. Look for key indicators, such as a question mark next to the sender's name, which denotes that Gmail couldn't verify the sender.

Keep Your Browser and Email Client Updated

Ensure your web browser and email client are up-to-date. Developers continuously release updates that include new security features and patches for vulnerabilities that scammers might exploit.

Contact the Company Directly

If in doubt, reach out to the company through official channels. Use contact information found on the company's official website, not the details provided in the dubious email.


As phishing attempts become more sophisticated, it's vital to stay vigilant. By adopting these practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to email scams. Always remember, if an email appears suspicious, it's better to err on the side of caution. Stay safe online!

For further assistance or to learn more about cybersecurity, consider visiting the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) website.

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