7 Telltale Signs That The Mysterious Email You Received Is Nothing But A Phishing Scam

The Emerging Popularity Of Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are becoming increasingly popular among scammers and hackers due to the low technical knowledge needed.

As the saying goes, “The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” In the context of a working environment, the cyber-illiterate may potentially jeopardise the safety of the organisation, especially since criminals tend to prey on this specific demographic.Time to get woke and prevent yourself from falling for phishing emails with this guide of 7 red flags.

1. Strange email titles regarding subjects unrelated to you

The email title is the first thing that can tip you off about a potential phishing email. If you’ve received an email about a non-existent account or something you didn’t order, it’s most likely a phishing email. Some other things to note include long strings of dubious-looking codes or numbers, spelling errors and awkward spaces between text and punctuation.

2. Suspiciously long or strange email addresses and domains

A few examples of ‘suspicious-looking’ email addresses.

Another dead giveaway would be long usernames—the portion of the email before the ‘@’—or domains of the sender’s email address. Official emails are typically short and assume professional usernames and domains.

Team accounts of official organisations would have usernames assuming either its department’s name, like ‘human.resources’, or universal ones like ‘contact.us’ or ‘customer.support’. On the other hand, emails sent by official individuals should include their name or full name only—like ‘anne.lim’. Rarely should you expect to find numbers in a username, and certainly not long strings of it.

More often than not, the domain of legitimate email accounts would simply be the name of the organisation. An example would be ‘@cyberyouth.sg’.

3. Generic greetings

An email with a generic greeting from a phisher posing as a renowned online video streaming company.

You should always expect to open your email to a proper greeting, where your name or full name is properly addressed, especially when it regards confidential activity such as online purchases.

Generic greetings including ‘Hi!’, ‘Hello!’ or even ‘Dear Sir’ and ‘Dear Ma’am’ could be a red flag for phishing emails. Banks, government organisations and other major bodies whom you share a personal and confidential relationship with would definitely address you by your name.

4. Unusual or weird formatting

Formatting issues like awkward spaces and text alignments can be a clear sign of a phishing email. Some phishers try to circumvent phishing and spam filters, which results in formatting issues within their emails.

You should also take note of how the sender presents the visual contents in the email. This includes icons, links, buttons and footer content. Anything amiss could potentially be a red flag.

While the formatting of email contents may differ between devices and web browsers, a reputable organisation would not have major formatting issues with their email in most cases.

5. Common language mistakes


Language errors are very common in phishing emails. Check for errors in spelling, grammar and the capitalisation of characters. Non-fraudulent emails are highly unlikely to make such mistakes.

6. Messages that induce panic, urgency or curiosity to take action immediately

Treat emails that try to evoke panic, fear, or urgency in the receiver with caution. Phishers use this tactic in a bid to psych you into taking the “precautionary measures” in fear of the repercussions. This can sometimes be hard to spot, but always check for other danger signs highlighted in this article before taking any action.

7. Extremely long or suspicious-looking links

Long URL with a domain not matching its intended destination presented when the cursor hovers over the link.

Check the links in the email by hovering over those links and see if they lead to wherever they are supposed to bring you to.

Some suspicious things to look out for in the links are:

  1. Use of URL shorteners that prevents you from seeing the actual URL the link brings you to.
  2. Misspellings, substitutions, omissions or unusual characters in links.
  3. URL has a domain that does not take you to its intended destination.

Stay Resilient To Phishing Emails By Looking Out For These 7 Signs

Keep yourself updated with the latest cybersecurity news and be wary of unsolicited emails. With these 7 tips on how to spot phishing emails, we can better protect ourselves from scammers.