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Spotting Fake or Phishing Email

If you ever receive an email message from someone, even an address you recognize, and something just doesn't seem right, you might be on to something. Fake email is getting more difficult to spot as the programs that send them improve.In the past, you could count on the obvious red flags: unknown or unrecognized sender, poor spelling/grammar, no subject, etc. Unfortunately, fake email has gotten to the point where it can appear to be from someone you know.

So how do we spot fake email?

Watch for generic emails asking you to visit a website that requires your login and password or those that contain an attachment that you were not expecting. In many cases, you also can see if the sender addresses you by name in the email message. If it's a generic message without your name, that could be a big indicator it was not sent by the person you know. If it's from someone you know well, many times you can tell if the message was authored by that person just by the way it is written.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to determine if an email is fake simply by looking at it. However, if you do get an email with a file you weren't expecting or a link you aren't sure about, trust your instincts. If something doesn't seem right, err on the side of caution and contact the sender to confirm the message is legitimate before clicking a link or opening a file.

Jerry Ranum, Desktop Support Specialist; ITS Help Desk, (701) 231-8685

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