**Originally published December 7, 2015. Updated November 10, 2019.**
It’s that time of the year where our mailboxes start to overflow with holiday greeting cards from family and friends — physical and digital mailboxes. Unfortunately, they both don’t always get the same initial reaction from the recipient. Whereas opening a holiday greeting card mailed to your home rarely comes with any strings attached, a holiday eCard (a digital greeting sent via e-mail) will make most people stop in their tracks.
That first moment of thinking, “Ooo, I got an eCard!” may often be replaced with more skeptical thoughts like “Is this eCard safe to open? Did my friend really send this to me or is this one of those e-mail scams?”
The truth? It can be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate and a fake eCard. However, there are definitely some telltale signs to look for if an eCard pops up in your inbox this holiday season. If any of the following are true, think twice before opening an eCard. You may be opening yourself up to another e-mail scam.
- There are spelling or major grammar errors. If a real eCard is coming to you from a real company, that initial e-mail has likely been edited by quite a few people before it finds its way to you. The chance of a professional eCard company sending you an e-mail with spelling, grammar, or capitalization errors is very small. Hackers aren’t looking too hard at what they write. Their goal is to send out that e-mail and steal your private information as quickly as possible.
- You don’t know the sender. It may be tempting to open, but if the card is from someone you don’t know, don’t open it. Have you ever sent a card to someone you don’t know? It just doesn’t make any sense. Likewise, if there is no sender name, you still shouldn’t open it. It’s the same idea — have you ever sent a card to someone without signing your name? Yes, mistakes happen, but it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
- The e-mail includes an attachment. If you receive an e-mail about an eCard, there will typically be a link inside the e-mail to access the card. Reputable eCard companies do not send attachments to their recipients, so do not download anything and delete any eCard message that includes an attachment.
Still not sure if the eCard you received is a scam? One simple thing you can do before opening an eCard is to contact the sender and ask them if they really sent you the card. If they did indeed send the eCard, you’ll get peace of mind before opening it and the opportunity to thank them properly!
If the eCard doesn’t have a name attached, you still have options. Because eCard scams are so prevalent now and card companies have to field a lot of questions from concerned consumers, many of those companies have pages on their websites about eCard scams. For example, 123Greetings.com, a popular eCard company, offers tips for how to tell the difference between their legitimate eCard e-mails and fraudulent e-mails. Just go to Google, type in the name of the company who sent the card along with the word “scams” and see what kind of information pops up.
Not all eCard scams are created equal, so never assume you are totally safe. Some scams will download viruses that trash computers, while others will download spyware and steal a victim’s personal information for purposes of committing identity theft. A little vigilance and attention to detail can go a long way in protecting yourself from eCard and other e-mail scams this holiday season!