How to Detect a Scam Email

I always wondered if I would be able to detect a scam email. Some of them are quite scary because they look legitimate! Well, today I received one from “PayPal” and here are the clues that let me know it was fake.

Wrong Email Address
I have two email addresses: the one I made when I was 12, and my professional one. For services that I don’t like to attach my professional self to, I use the email address from when I was 12. However, for professional services, such as PayPal, I use my formal email address.

This scam was sent to my NON-PRIMARY account. This was the biggest clue. I don’t receive emails from PayPal on that account. I can completely understand if some people might get mixed up on what email address they are currently using, but make sure that the email received is on the same account you signed up for.

Long Sender List
The mail app on my iPhone always shows the sender information vertically instead of horizontally, like the gmail app does. I had to scroll through a long list of email addresses that this “legitimate” email was sent to. Legitimate PayPal emails are always sent to one person. If any email has a long list of people it was sent to, unless it’s a mass email from a trusted source, it’s probably spam.

This is probably my favorite clue. The scam has quite a few typos in the body of the text. Easy to miss while skimming, but I’m not someone who likes to skim. Just read the first paragraph to see what I’m talking about!

“We regularly check the activity of your paypal account. Recently, we found that some of the activities you are violating your agreement with us we have limited your account and can not offer the service for you.”

I have no idea what that second sentence is saying, and neither should you. Please be careful with scam emails! They are looking more and more legitimate, and I hope there isn’t someone out there losing their login information to gmail or PayPal because of a scam.

Final tip: If you are unsure whether or not the email is legitimate, log in through the service you are questioning. I logged into my PayPal account through PayPal after receiving this email, and I saw NO indication that I was violating any agreement. Please be safe and be careful!

The Subjective View of Commas

“Let’s eat, Grandpa!”

“Let’s eat Grandpa.”

These sentences are iconic examples of why commas are important. One, simple comma changed the entire meaning of the sentence. Sentences like the ones above are used to show just how important commas (and grammar rules in general) are. However, are all commas really necessary?

As someone who absolutely adores commas, I’ve realized the answer to this question is “No.” Not all commas are necessary. Commas are subjective, not objective. This phenomenon is what makes commas so hard to use.

Sentences with “that” or “which” show just how hard it is to figure out if a comma is necessary or not. The following sentences only have one minor difference. One uses “that,” and one uses “which.” Can you tell which one is correct?

Grab my wallet, which is in my purse.

Grab my wallet that is in my purse.

The answer to this question, surprisingly enough, is both sentences are correct depending on the context. In the first case, the writer assumes the reader already knows where the wallet is. “Which” signifies a non-essential element to a sentence, so the last part of the sentence, “which is in my purse,” can be taken out without removing meaning to the sentence.

In contrast, the writer of the second sentence assumes the reader doesn’t know where the wallet is. The word “that” shows the following information is essential for the reader. If the last part of the sentence, “that is in my purse,” is left out, readers might not have the information they need to accomplish their task.

Quick Guide to Essential and Non-Essential Phrases
A quick and easy way to decide if something is essential or not is to take the part of the sentence out. Does the sentence still make sense without the extra information? Then the phrase is non-essential and often uses a comma and “which” to show that it’s just extra information. Does the reader ask “so what?” or expects more information? Then the phrase is essential and “that” is used without a comma.

It’s important to remember as the author, you are the one who controls the commas. If you can justify why a phrase is essential or non-essential, then you are correct! It’s your writing, so own it! You control commas; commas don’t control you.