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Top 5 clues for spotting
an e-mail scam:   

Clue No. 1: Check the spelling
Scammers are notorious for their lack of basic spelling and grammar skills. Look for misspelled words and incomplete or awkwardly written sentences. It's not uncommon for a scam e-mail that is purportedly from a reputable and well known organization to misspell the name of that organization! For example, one e-mail scam aimed at Facebook users spelled the name of the site in lowercase ("facebook").

Clue No. 2: Who signed it?
If it's a legitimate e-mail from a business, it will be signed with a person's name and contact information, but if it signs off with something vague, such as "Customer Support," be wary.

Be especially aware of e-mails that try to get your attention by using all capital letters, especially in the subject line. Using all caps has long been viewed as online shouting. It just isn't done. The authors of scam e-mails tend to write prose that is over-the-top and very emotional. In addition to a lot of capital letters, look for an excess of exclamation points and dire warnings, such as "Urgent!" or "Danger!"

Clue No. 4: The e-mail has an executable attachment
Phishers can only scam you if you let them. And you do just that if you download e-mail attachments, which can contain computer viruses. Since a favorite way to send a scam e-mail is by making it look as if it were sent to you by someone in your e-mail address book, don't be fooled by the sender's name. Never download an attachment unless you are sure it's legitimate.

Clue No. 5: The e-mail has a link to a Web site
As more people have learned they shouldn't download attachments from strangers, scammers have caught on. Instead of attaching a file, they include a clickable link to a Web site. Click on that link, and you might be asked to provide personal information. Do it, and you've been scammed. For example, you might receive an e-mail that appears to be from your bank, offering you a very low interest rate on a mortgage or home equity loan. If you click on the link, it could ask your name, bank account number and online banking password to get onto the site. Don't ever provide this information if you got on the site by clicking a link in an e-mail.

One final word of advice: Never, ever respond to a spam e-mail. By doing so you confirm your e-mail account is active, and you'll likely be inundated with more spam.
By Cathryn Conroy
Spam is annoying, but phishing is dangerous. E-mail phishing scams have one purpose: theft.