Easy Keys to Spotting a Scam Crypto (or any other) Email.

By rah | rah | 5 Nov 2020

Emails are an easy way to lure the unsuspecting in and while a lot of them are really obvious some of them are a little more subtle and sophisticated. These seem to be particularly prevalent in the crypto community and nothing is ever for free. Yes free crypto is readily available but there is always a cost. I use Cointiply, whose business model is to show ads and get users to fill in surveys to earn coins which in turn can be turned into crypto. The cost on my part is that it is time consuming while Cointiply’s business model ensures they get advertising revenue and fees for providing data from surveys and other downloadables.

Nothing is ever truly free so always click with caution.

Just a couple of days ago I received an email purportedly from Netflix asking me to pay an outstanding invoice. I don’t even have a Netflix account so that was an easy spot. But what if I did – would I have spotted it anyway?

Yes I would and this is how.

Do not believe what you see at surface level. It is very easy to insert a PayPal or Netflix image as a link that has nothing to do with them.

Even trusted friends can be hacked so if something unexpected comes and especially with a link don’t open it.

Look at the email sender. It might say PayPal because the scammer has set up their user name as such but if you look at the address it might be something like [email protected]. This is not a PayPal account. A solid indicator is the domain address. If it is from PayPal it is more likely to be something like [email protected] or [email protected]

Don’t download anything unless you are expecting something downloadable.

If you see a download link which can be an image or text (or any link to that matter) hover over but do not click and it will show you what the file actually is or where it is going to take you. The HTML for a link looks like this:

<a href="">Safe Download</a>

<a href="">Safe Download</a>

Both of these are to downloadable files but they will both display as Safe Download but go to totally different places. The names I have provided are very obvious, but hovering will show you where clicking will take you. Reading can also help you understand where you are going to navigate to. Again with a similar illustration.

<a href=">Visit PayPal</a>

<a href="">Visit PayPal</a>

Both will display as Visit PayPal. The first one is likely to be genuine, but the second not because the PayPal element is a subdomain of ‘mysite’. PayPal is big enough to have its own dedicated domain and PayPal will not be the subdomain anyway – or something along those lines is more likely to be genuine.

Check the kind of file that is downloadable and only download the kind of file you are expecting. If it is a Word file only download .docx or .doc files, leave anything else alone While the file type can be masked this relies on a level of sophistication that most scammers don’t have.

Among High Risk downloads are

  • .exe (programmes, only download with caution if you are expecting to download a program)
  • .bat (specific instructions that can be used to do something malicious on your computer with)
  • .dll (affects background processes – don’t mess with them)

Be cautious of Medium Risk downloads

  • .zip / .rar or similar archive files. They might be fine, but are you expecting something like a bunch of files – the archive is almost certainly fine, but its contents might not be
  • .torrent these are potentially illegal anyway as they are often used for peer to peer sharing of films which are copyrighted and protected by law.

Low Risk files (especially if you are expecting such an attachment) are

  • Picture files (,jpg / .jpeg / .png / .gif etc)
  • Movie files (.avi / .mp4 etc)
  • Sound files (.wma / .mp3 etc)

So to summarise only download expected files that have the expected file extensions (if you are downloading a picture and suddenly it appears to be an .exe leave it alone). Please also be aware that this list is not exhaustive so do your own research and always act cautiously.

Finally a fun video just to illustrate a few of the other basic giveaways for your enjoyment.

Stay safe, stay well and be cautious online    

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I love reading and technology as well as history. I teach English and Business to professional clients as well as soft skills with a focus on communications. I am a big fan of both Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln City Football clubs


Experienced Business Owner and Coach and Tutor who now trades in Crypto. It is proving to be an interesting journey with so much technical language involved. Follow me as I learn the trade (and how to trade). Made some howling mistakes to begin with, but still learning and will share what I learn as I learn it for the benefit of the community. - RAH

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