The Seacoast BankNote

Social Engineering Red Flags

email warning icon

There are several components to every e-mail message that must be analyzed to ensure it is legitimate. In this post, we will look at all of them.


  1. I don't recognize the sender's email address as someone I ordinarily communicate with.
  2. This email is from someone outside my circle of friends and family and it's not something we emailed about before.
  3. This email was sent from someone inside my circle of friends and family or from a vendor, but is very unusual or out of character.
  4. Is the sender's email address from a suspicious domain? (like
  5. I don't know the sender personally and they were not vouched for by someone I trust.
  6. I don't have any relationship and no past communications with the sender.
  7. This is an unexpected or unusual email with an embedded hyperlink or an attachment from someone I hadn't communicated with recently.


  1. I was cc’d on an email sent to one or more people, but I don’t personally know the other people it was sent to.
  2. I received an email that was also sent to an unusual mix of people. For example a seemingly random group of people whose last names start with the same letter or a whole list of unrelated addresses.



  1. Did I get an email with a subject line that is irrelevant or does not match the content?
  2. Is the email message a reply to something I never sent or requested?



  1. Did I receive an email that I normally would get during regular daytime hours, but it was sent at an unusual time like 3 a.m.?

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  1. I hover my mouse over a hyperlink that’s displayed in the email message, but the link to address is for a different web site. (This is a big red flag.)
  2. I received an email that only has long hyperlinks with no further information and the rest of the email is completely blank.
  3. I received an email with a hyperlink that is a misspelling of a known web site. For instance, - the “m” is really two characters – “r & n”)



  1. The sender included an email attachment that I was not expecting or that makes no sense in relation to the email message. (This sender doesn’t ordinarily send me these types of attachment(s).
  2. I see an attachment with a possibly dangerous ­file type. The only fi­le type that is always safe to click on is a .TXT fi­le.



  1. Is the sender asking me to click on a link or open an attachment to avoid a negative consequence, or to gain something of value?
  2. Is the email out of the ordinary, or does it have bad grammar or spelling errors?
  3. Is the sender asking me to click a link or open up an attachment that seems odd or illogical?
  4. Do I have an uncomfortable gut feeling about the sender’s request to open an attachment or click a link?
  5. Is the email asking me to look at a compromising or embarrassing picture of myself or someone I know?

If in doubt, do not click on links, or open attachments - simply delete the e-mail.


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