Spotting Phony Capital Emails

The following was a phishing email – please find some key warning signs below to look for in order to help you determine if the email is dangerous.

Phishing – is an unsolicited email message trying to get you to give up something. Typically they are trying to get your username and password. Sometimes they try and get you to click on a link or run an attachment that will infect your computer with a virus. To learn more about phishing attacks and tactics, visit for more information.

The email above shows 5 things that tell us this is a fake email and should be deleted. It is important to note that not all bad emails will have all 5 things wrong in them, some may only have 1 or 2 of these things and/or may have a few more not listed in this article. These are the most grievous and common red flags that you can spot and use to determine if a message you received is safe or not.

Before we get into the 5 individual red flags you can also see that the overall message itself is a red flag… it is very short and does not say much of anything but is about an important topic that may be of a concern to you. However, the only option for you to learn more is by clicking on a link. A proper announcement should have more content in the email helping you to understand why the email is of importance to you.

1. The email’s friendly name displays Capital University but the email address is not of
This is a big clue; if this email is “Regarding your Payroll” then why would someone at be emailing people at This by itself should tell you to just delete the email but you can also contact the appropriate person, in this case someone in Payroll, by phone or by forwarding this email to them (DO NOT reply to unknown/untrusted senders) and as ask if this is legitimate.

Sometimes, instead of Capital University,  you may see the name of someone that you know from Capital but still with a non-capital email address such as or… that is still not from the person named. The spammer likely looked at our website and picked a name that would bolster your trust of their spam; but it is still not legitimate.

Important: You may get an email that is from a person from Capital and it has their email address… That alone should not cause you to trust a message like this. These other red flags should still be checked as the named person’s account may have been compromised and the spammer is logged in to this person’s account and sending the emails from it.

2. The Barracuda Spam Appliance was suspicious of this email and has tagged the subject line with [POSSIBLE SPAM].
Emails are scored and the higher the score the more likely it is spam, there are four ranges of scores; not spam, possible spam, quarantine, and spam. This email did not score high enough to be outright blocked or quarantined but it was suspicious so it was tagged. That tag should alert you to treat the email with extra caution and examine it to see if you can trust it. Things you should ask yourself – Were you expecting this? Do you know the sender? Can you verify this email with the sender without replying to it?

3. The greeting does not contain your name.
The use of a form letter or generalized greetings can aid in determining the trustworthiness of an email. With the ease of mail merge, many of the key offices here at Capital work to personalize their emails to you. For example: the IT password expiration notices are automated but they use your first and last name as we have that in our system, the spammers do not know what your first and last names are so they cannot do that. Should an email use you email address in the greeting then that is a dead giveaway that it could be dangerous.

4. The enclosed link does not point to where it says it does.
Hover your mouse cursor over the link (do not click!) and a pop-up should appear showing the true destination of the link. You can see the link text said it was a site but the pop-up is (the ‘es’ is the country code for Spain). If you click on this link then you are taken to a server at in Spain, not a server with Capital.

ALSO note: the end of the weblink listed that it was a pdf file… but the end of the pop-up shows that you are going to a PHP page.

5. The signature text does not tell you who from Capital sent the message.
Based on this message alone, you do not know who sent it nor do you know who to call to verify its validity or to ask questions. That is because the real sender, the spammer, does not want you to verify it. They only want you to click on the link, fill out a form, and give away your password and possibly many other personal pieces of information. If this was really from payroll you would have had a Capital person’s name and phone number on it so that you could contact them.

There are many other methods that can be used to identify suspicious emails not seen in this email and thus not listed in this article. For a good search with Google look at this link: (this is a google shortened URL much like tiny url).