Red Flags – Social Engineering

Identify Red Flags in an Email


I don’t recognize the sender’s email address as someone I ordinarily communicate with.

• This email is from someone outside my organization and it’s not related to my job responsibilities.

• This email was sent from someone inside the organization or from a customer,    vendor, or partner and is very unusual or out of character.

• Is the sender’s email address from a suspicious domain (like micorsoft

• I don’t know the sender personally and they were not vouched for by someone I trust.

• I don’t have a business relationship or any past communications with the sender.

• This is an unexpected or unusual email with an embedded hyperlink or an attachment from someone I haven’t communicated with recently.


• I hover my mouse over a hyperlink that’s displayed in the email message, but
the link-to address is for a different website. (This is a big red flag.)

• I received an email that only has long hyperlinks with no further information,
and the rest of the email is completely blank.

• 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” and “n.”


• 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.

• I received an email that was also sent to an unusual mix of people.
For instance, it might be sent to a random group of people at my
organization whose last names start with the same letter, or a whole
list of unrelated addresses.


• 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 this type of attachment.)

• 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.


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


• Did I get an email with a subject line that is irrelevant or does not match the message content?

• Is the email message a reply to something I never sent or requested?


• 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?

• Is the email out of the ordinary, or does it have bad grammar or spelling errors?

• Is the sender asking me to click a link or open up an attachment that seems odd or illogical?

• Do I have an uncomfortable gut feeling about the sender’s request to open an attachment or click a link?

• Is the email asking me to look at a compromising or embarrassing picture of myself or someone I know?