Honor Society Emails: How to Tell if They Are Real or Fake?
You open your inbox to a message that sounds too good to be true.
You've been selected to join an honor society, and there are perks just waiting to be claimed. Should you open it? Can you trust it?
In today's Digital Age, it doesn't take much for any subject to start trending. Unfortunately, this online attention opens the doors for phishing attacks and unscrupulous scammers who want to take advantage of vulnerable recipients.
This extends to honor society emails. While correspondence from Honor Society Foundatin is always legitimate, safe and trustworthy, it can be difficult to tell if you're dealing with the real deal or a dishonest imposter. Today, we're breaking down a few of the best ways to double-check before you click.
What Are Phishing Scams?
Phishing is the act of scamming someone into giving up their personal data or system access in exchange for what they believe to be a legitimate purpose. In the e-mail realm, this comes in the form of messages that might appear to look valid, but in reality, are anything but.
The primary concern?
Once you give up your password, account number or other identifiable data, it can open the door to allow phishers access to other parts of your life, including your computer system, bank accounts or confidential, work-related files.
While these might seem like isolated incidents, they're anything but uncommon. In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) receives more than 1,300 complaints every day from internet users reporting internet-related crimes, with phishing taking the top spot as the most-reported crime.
The hard part?
Phishing emails have come a long way. They're no longer flashy, spammy and obviously fake. Now, most of them look reputable. They might seem to be from a source that you know and trust, and their branding is more professional than ever.
These tactics make it especially difficult to tell if you're communicating with a professional source, such as Honor Society Foundation. Let's take a look at a few ways you can identify whether the message you're viewing is real or fake.
1. Requests for Sensitive Information
One of the first red flags that you might not be looking at a valid email? You should never feel pressured to open a link or attachment and divulge sensitive information.
This is true even if the request seems reasonable. For instance, the sender might say that your Honor Society Foundation account has been hacked and you need to reset your password. Or, they might request that you update your profile by clicking on the link and adding more information.
Often, these are coupled with threats that appeal to your emotions. For instance, the message might explain that you'll lose your account access if you don't update your password. Or, they'll say there's a problem with your payment information and they need you to double-check the details.
Yet, as convincing as these claims might be, keep in mind that a professional honor society would never request that kind of information via email. From passwords to credit card information, there are many different forms of data that phishers may ask for, and it's important to stay vigilant and protect yourself against such false claims.
2. Questionable Domain Names
Sure, the sender's email handle might sound legitimate. For example, it might be "HonorSocietyUS" or "StudentHonors" or anything along those lines.
Yet, take a closer look at their entire email address. What does the domain say?
Correspondence from us will end in "honorsociety.org". Does the domain look equally professional or is it completely unrelated to the sender's name?
Many times, senders will create handles that mask the details of their email address. For instance, your inbox might include messages from a sender labeled simply "Honor Society". Hover your mouse over their "From" name and you should be able to see their entire email address.
Rather than skimming over it, go through it with a fine-tooth comb. Illegitimate senders will often have email addresses that look real, but include misspellings or added numbers. For instance, a company attempting to pass itself off as Honor Society Foundation might change the spelling to "honorsoceity.org" or "honorsociety25" in the domain. This single letter or number change allows them to look real, and many people will read too quickly to notice such errors.
3. Generic Salutations
At Honor Society Foundation, we're proud of each one of our members! We know you by name and we'll address you as such.
To that end, keep your eyes open for emails that seem real, but begin with a generic opener, such as "Dear Sir or Madam" or "Dear Valued Member". While not every email that begins this way will be fake, this is another sign that the sender doesn't know you as well as they let on.
Especially if they're asking for your involvement in a project or need sensitive account information, they should call you by name. From there, they should direct you to contact them via telephone, rather than sharing that data over the internet.
Then, there are some untrustworthy senders that simply avoid a salutation altogether. These phishing emails will often appear overly commercialized and heavily branded, with so many extraneous details that it's easy to miss the personal oversight.
4. Inaccurate Logos
Are there logos in the email? If so, do a double-take and compare them against images that you know you can trust. If the email looks to be from a reliable honor society, go ahead and open up their home page in a separate window and compare the two logos.
Does the one you're eyeing appear to be the same, or is it a little altered? If it's the latter, this could be a sign that the sender attempted to recreate the logo but, without the same professional tools, wasn't able to do so.
Poor Photoshop jobs are usually easy to spot, but keep in mind that today's phishing scams are more sophisticated than ever before, so judging based on imagery and logos alone isn't always accurate.
5. Poor Grammar
Of all senders, you'd expect an email from Honor Society Foundation to be polished and professional. It shouldn't be riddled with spelling errors and grammatical missteps!
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to spot a fake message is to take a look at the body of the text. Does it sound expertly worded or hastily written?
Unfortunately, hackers and phishers are fully aware of what they're doing. Most of the time, they aren't uneducated. Rather, quite the opposite holds true.
They're tech-savvy computer experts who are attempting to beat the system. As such, they'll prey on anyone who they believe will overlook or fail to catch mistakes like these. You may find random numbers interposed in the middle of sentences, missing words and a whole host of other issues that are usually easy to catch if you read closely.
6. Immediate Website Redirects
Were you taken to a website as soon as you clicked to open the email in question?
Many times, phishing emails will be coded as one giant hyperlink. That means they'll redirect you to the sender's (fake) website, no matter where on the message you click. Sometimes, a single click will even initiate a download of spam onto your computer.
It's important to understand that legitimate honor societies will never redirect you to their website involuntarily. You should be able to click around any email you open without being surprised by a new window or a download you didn't ask to receive.
7. Unsolicited Attachments
Did you receive an email that you didn't expect, from a sender you don't recognize, with an attachment you're unsure about?
Any time a reliable sender includes any type of file onto their message, it's usually because the recipient is expecting it. For instance, you might receive a file attachment from your colleague at work.
However, if the email seems inauthentic to begin with, an unsolicited attachment is yet another warning sign. Most reputable companies will send you a link to visit their website to download articles, fill out forms, and perform other actions. They won't require that you do it all from your inbox.
As with other tips, this one isn't failsafe. There might be some professional companies that do send out the occasional attachment. Most of the time, however, you'll be able to recognize and remember them.
Take note of which trustworthy businesses routinely send you attachments. For instance, a tech firm that you follow might send its latest white papers to all of its email marketing subscribers. Or, a fitness instructor might attach a meal plan PDF to the email blast they send their social media followers.
If you recognize and can validate the source, not all attachments are suspicious. However, if this is one of many issues that's raising your eyebrow, it's worth noting.
8. Strange Subject Lines
Does the subject line of the email seem strange? Does it match the body of the email or seem completely out of context?
A common tactic of phishing emails is that they lure you in with illustrious subject lines that serve as veritable clickbait. For instance, you might read "The Honor Society Wants to Honor You!" and think that you're winning a special award.
Or, the subject might be more alluring such as, "Click Here to Claim Your Honor Society Prize!" You may even get a subject line that starts with, "Re:" which indicates a reply, even if you've never corresponded with this source before.
Again, while not every attention-grabbing subject will be malicious, this is an important part of your analyses. As you review domain names and read the body of the message, don't forget to give a close look to what the subject actually says.
While you're in the subject box section, go ahead and check out the CC: spot, too. Were there people copied on the email who you don't know? Do their email addresses and domain names look strange? This is another sign that it's a fake.
9. Odd Timelines
Yes, there are reputable companies that simply operate in a different timezone than yours. If the rest of their email checks out, a strange send time might not be too concerning.
Yet, what if the email already looks phishy and just happens to arrive at 3:00 in the morning? This could be another strike against the sender, and another reason to delete the message.
10. Misaligned Anchor Text and URL
If there are links in the body of the email, then hover over them before clicking. This will allow you to see the URL behind the anchor text, which reveals the website that a click will take you to.
Check to make sure these two align. For instance, a link embedded into text that reads, "Click here to join our society today!" should clearly take the user to an application or sign-up page. If it redirects to a suspicious-looking URL that doesn't include those keywords or similar phrasing, don't click on it.
Identify Reputable Honor Society Emails
At Honor Society Foundation, we're proud of the reputation that precedes us. We're a nationally-recognized society created to recognize and reward students who excel in leadership and academics.
When you become a member, you can receive access to our exclusive Honor Society emails, where we'll send you up-to-date information on career services, member perks, networking opportunities and more.
We want to make sure our messages aren't mixed up with those from imposters, so we're out to make it as easy as possible for you. Check out our new book coming this month to Amazon titled, "HonorSociety.org Scam Watch: 10 Ways to Spot Real or Fake Emails".
If you have any questions about whether communication from Honor Society is legitimate, feel free to reach out to us to verify!