Online scams have been around since the emergence of the internet, and as the web has grown in sophistication, so have the scams. One method scammers use to try and target their victims, is by sending an email with a compromised link, or with a view to panicking recipients into parting with financial details.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is reporting an increase in online threats as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so scammers are looking to capitalise on the raised anxiety levels of the general public for their own financial gain. These raised anxiety levels can also make it harder to spot a dodgy email pretending to be HMRC or pretending to be the NHS telling you that you need a COVID test.

You can have the best technical security plan in the world in place, but if your employees aren’t part of the security equation then they could unwittingly fall for a scam and cost your business time and money as a result of a compromised network. Everyone on your team needs to know exactly how to verify if an email is genuine.

How to tell if email contents are genuine

The NCSC has a list of things to look out for, when it comes to evaluating the contents of an email:


Cyber criminals want you to react, without even thinking and they do this by sewing the seeds of fear. If your email includes an impossible-sounding deadline for a response or makes you feel panic and dread, this is one indicator that there’s something not right with the contents.


As we previously mentioned, they also like to pretend to be in a position of authority. Whether they’re falsely claiming to be from HMRC, the NHS, the boss, an accountant, or anyone else who might hold a respected position. It’s worth noting that no organization like the above will pressure you into giving details.


If, for example, a charity sends you an email, but it makes you feel especially upset or guilty this can be another red flag that it’s a fake email trying to get you to give up your financial details.

Current events

As mentioned above, many online scammers are looking to profit from anxiety and panic caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you get any emails you weren’t expecting in relation to COVID then check them out with trustworthy sources first, like the NHS or websites.


If you miss out on getting tickets for a hotly anticipated event but get an email a few days later offering you tickets – it’s more than likely too good to be true and you should proceed with extreme caution. Scammers often make use of scarcity and desperation in their attempts to gain money.

Is your email security up to scratch?

With 46% of businesses reporting identified breaches or attacks between March 2019 and March 2020 according to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey: 2020 Email security is everything if you don’t wish to end up joining their ranks for the 2021 survey.

With a combination of both technical solutions and human training, you can be confident in avoiding email scams and associated breaches.

 If ever you’re not sure on an email and would like us to have a look at it for you and advise whether or not it’s genuine, or you’d like some help tightening up your current email security setup, give us a call on 01732 617788 or drop us an email to [email protected] and we’ll be happy to help.