It seems like cleaning out your email inbox takes longer each day. Mixed in with the jokes from your friend with too much time on his hands and the day’s marching orders from your boss, you’ll find sure fire ways to get rich, enhance body parts, and magically lose 75 pounds.

Many of these emails are harmless, if annoying, spam. Others are more sinister and are connected, in one way or another, to a scam. Here’s a way to quickly recognize the scams:

  1. The message includes instructions to keep the contents of the email secret. Now ask yourself why would a complete stranger would demand complete confidentiality. The reason is, they don’t want you mentioning it to someone who will tell you it’s a scam.
  2. There is a statement or message in the email asking you to forward it to all your friends and associates? They usually tell you the contents are so important they must be shared. But what better way to spread a scam than to have victims do it for you?
  3. The message suggests you will encounter bad luck if you fail to take some action? Nothing like scare tactics.
  4. The message warns of a dangerous virus circulating the Internet and that commercial anti-virus products are powerless to stop it. You are told to open and run an attachment. When you do, you unleash a nasty virus or malware in your computer.
  5. The message warns you that other messages are scams, and that it is not a hoax. Let’s face it, if you have to say it’s not a hoax, it is.
  6. The message is grammatically challenged, as though the writer was asleep during English class, or perhaps never attended school at all.
  7. The message has already been forwarded multiple times, as evident by the trail of email headers in the body of the message.

 A message meeting any one of these characteristics can be safely deleted.

 What are the scammers after? It can be something dangerous, like a phishing expedition, designed to get your personal information, or perhaps steal your identity. The scammer may be trying to get your to fill out a survey, so they can earn money. Or, they may just be the type of person who wants to spread chaos – and viruses – on the Internet.