Online banking is great – you don’t have to wait in a long line at the bank or in the drive through, and can do transactions right over your computer. However, one day, an email comes across your inbox saying that there’s a problem with your account. Do you open it? Sometimes, the answer is a resounding NO – your identity can easily be stolen this way, and identity thieves like to use a tool called “phishing” to make you think that they’re the bank, and that they’re wanting to help you. 

How can you tell if something is a phishing attempt? Let me show you something that hit my inbox recently.

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There are 4 things wrong with this email, I’ll quickly show you how to spot them. 

#1 – the email address at first glance looks like it came from the financial institution, but if you hover over the email address, it quickly shows you that it came from someone else.

#2 – many phishing emails come from outside the United States, so grammar mistakes are often common. If you see misspellings or incorrect grammar, that’s a red flag.

#3 – they want you to “click a link”, that’s a major red flag that it’s a phishing email. Financial institutions never ask you to click a link, but instead ask you to call a number.

#4 – they try to provide an “authority” that sent the email to help make you think they’re really trying to “help you”. In this case, it came from the “fraud department”.

Do a quick check on these type of flags before you ever interact with an unsolicited email, or better yet, take the phisher’s nice advice in this particular email and call the customer service number on the back of your card.  

Christopher Grounds, Ph.D., CIPA, is a Certified Identity Protection Advisor with the Identity Management Institute, and is the co-owner of Benefits4Success with Joni Grounds, whose mission is to grow and protect individuals and small businesses. He can be reached at .

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