Beware of Email – Even if it Comes from Someone You Know

This post is the last in our series of deep dives into cybersecurity issues we should be aware of to keep ourselves and our assets safe online. Check out our previous installments: Vigilance is Key to Protecting Yourself in a Digital World, Ways to Protect Yourself from Cybercrime, and Safeguarding our passwords is key to preventing cybercrime.


The most common access point for cybercrime is something you probably use every day: email. From personal interactions to business and consumer transactions, our reliance on email communication leaves us particularly vulnerable to cybersecurity threats.

While there are many ways cybercriminals can use email to attack, two of the most common email threats are phishing scams and identity theft.

In phishing scams, criminals send a misleading “phishing” email with a link or attachment, which, when clicked, launches a piece of malware that your system can’t detect. Once that malware deploys, it can view and copy anything on your hard drive, including passwords, contacts, charities and causes, advisors, business files, and more. Or, a link in a phishing scam can lead to a treacherous website, which may then acquire your personal information, credit card details, and more. Cybercriminals have become very skilled at building convincing phishing campaigns in recent years, using logos, formats, and language that can lead us to believe the email is legitimate.

Identity theft is another vulnerability email exposes, particularly for individuals with significant assets. If a cybercriminal gains access to your email account, they have the intimate details of your life at their fingertips. Names of family members, travel plans, charitable interests, financial accounts, and more just some examples of the treasure trove of information your email contains. And patient cybercriminals who see the potential for a big payoff are willing to put in the necessary time exploit these personal details in every sinister way you can imagine… and more.

Protect yourself by being meticulous with your email.

Don’t click on anything.

The majority of hacks and data breaches happen by someone clicking on something. Get into the habit of not clicking on anything, even if you think you know who it’s from. Instead, if an email contains a link you’d like to access, try to get to it through the website you know is legitimate.

Watch out for urgent requests – even from a colleague or family member.

Thieves have become adept at assuming other identities and using the same language and tone as others. Before you make financial transactions or share sensitive information, be sure you know for sure it’s going where you intend. A quick confirmation call or text to a co-worker or loved one before sharing sensitive details can save you from a world of trouble down the road.

Confirm the sender.

Hackers are known to use a sophisticated approach by utilizing nicknames, lingo, and current events based on what they learn by perusing your email, so it seems like an email has come from someone you know. Their communication can be compelling, so if anything seems off track or you have any doubt, verify with the sender that it is, in fact, from them.

Choose a strong password for your email.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: make sure your email password is the strongest password you have. Enable two-factor authentication when possible to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to gain access to your account. Cybercriminals love low-hanging fruit – do everything you can to make it difficult for them to log in.

Email is an essential and efficient form of communication in today’s world. By being aware of potential threats and taking appropriate steps to mitigate them, you can help ensure your email is working for you and not against you.


Bartlett takes cybersecurity seriously. Neal O’Farrell, one of the world’s original security and privacy experts (and one of the few with more than a decade of experience working with affluent and high net worth consumers and their families), helped develop Bartlett’s Cybersecurity Education Center, a comprehensive website that offers a wide variety of resources to improve cybersecurity, including tips, security guides, videos, and self-audits, and more. We hope you will access these resources to learn more about how to improve your cybersecurity, and share this valuable information with family, friends, business and social connections, employees, and anyone else you know

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