The “Hover Check”: Spot Phishing Emails Quickly & Prevent Identity Theft Easily

Republished from a previous posting on 4/12/2009:

According to, there are 180 identity thefts happening every minute. Think about that! Every 1/3rd of a second, someone’s identity is stolen. But with some very basic knowledge, you can reduce your risks.

One way criminals are stealing identities is by using emails that try to fool recipients into giving away their personal information. This style of crime is more common than ever and the crooks are getting smarter, so you need to get smarter too. Below, I tell you how to spot these illegitimate emails very easily and quickly.

A common purpose of phishing emails is to steal your credit card information. Phishing emails have become more dangerous lately because they have developed better disguises hiding their true purpose. Because you’re more likely to think they’re legitimate, phishing emails typically appear to come from banks or insurance companies. These are the most dangerous. As a general rule, you should always be skeptical and proceed with caution when you receive an unsolicited message appearing as if it came from a company you do business with.

The Hover Check:
When you get one of these types of emails, try performing this one simple test I call the “Hover Check”. In the questionable email, hold your mouse over the link that is provided to “update records”, for instance, without clicking it. The actual URL address should appear in a pop up. Examine this address to determine where it is truly going to take you if you did click on it. Remember, DON’T click on it. Just let your mouse rest over the link until the address pops up and then examine it. If it’s not going to the website of the company they’re claiming to be, the link is most likely dangerous and at the very least, an attempt to get your personal information.

Pay Attention to Sub Domains. Now if you don’t know what I’m talking about and know nothing about URLs and what to look for, here’s a quick lesson. Web pages begin with “http://”. They are followed by the domain name, such as “”. The “www” which precedes a domain name is really a “sub domain”. “www” simply stands for world wide web, but sub domains can really be anything and more and more often are. Google for instance uses sub domains frequently, to give one the ability to direct requests to other web services they provide. For instance, for maps the URL address is To search news, it’s, and so forth. One thing most people don’t know is that you can have as many layers of sub domains as you want. For instance, is not a Key Bank link. The domain name is really “”, and so whoever controls this domain name controls the pages that display when you click on their links. Instead of .com being used as the extension, “eu” is used, which means it’s a European domain name. There are actually hundreds of domain name extensions. You probably know only the most common ones like .com, .net, .edu, .org, .info, etc. But nearly every country in the world has its own domain designation.

Another simple test when examining whether or not you’re on a legitimate page asking for personal information, is to see if the URL address starts with “https”, where the “s” indicates that it’s a secure page. As a rule, do not provide any personal information unless the page is secure as indicated by the address beginning with https.

What should you do with the email when you determine that it’s illegitimate?Certainly, you should delete it, but only after defining the email as spam. However, with most basic spam filters, if you define an email as spam you will be preventing legitimate notices from this business from getting messages through to you. Most phishing emails are sent with a legitimate email address as a part of their disguise. Our Systems Administrators here at iNamics know how to stop these emails in better ways from getting through. They define certain rules at higher levels of our spam filtration system that stop these emails without specifically saying to stop all emails coming from any particular email address, as many basic spam filters do. I suggest you notify your email administrator so they can work to prevent any other similar emails, once discovered, from getting through to you.

For more posts about this subject matter, go to

The author of this post, Al Harlow, is President and CEO of iNamics Corporation, a leader in website design and development company, and ClickIT Connect Corp., a hosting, computer and learning service center in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. To learn more, go to or


Albert Harlow is a seasoned entrepreneur who has built companies from the ground up around the creation of now hundreds of innovative products for a variety of both consumer and industrial markets. He has also been the impetus of hundreds of jobs, and led, trained and nurtured many as Founder and President of nearly 10 start-ups over a span of 30 years. He single-handedly revolutionized both the robotics and plastics industries. For example, one of his first innovations was making a plastic rural mailbox for about the same cost as a metal one, which took this static industry by storm, paving the way for entry by giants Rubbermaid and Step-2. His innovations include the creation of painting machines that painted large Provost buses to Nokia cell phones. If you need an innovator, business or project leader, IT systems expert, Internet marketing specialist, software or simply a WordPress developer, contact Al who can help make your visions a reality. He currently works at the helm of Click IT (a "managed services provider", MSP, with a brick-and-mortar IT services store in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, working now on evolving into a franchise), while consulting with clients to help them with their own businesses, increasing sales, securing their IT infrastructure and helping to improve their operational efficiency using state-of-the-art technologies we offer. To see all the IT services offered by Click IT, go to While he enjoys most the creative aspects of any project, some of my most rewarding experiences have come from helping others realize their true potential with the implementation of simple tools and techniques. Many times he already has the tools available and needs only to show how to leverage them for their benefit. Whether it is working with entire organizations or coaching individuals, he also spends a lot of his time improving productivity. In his current businesses, finding easier ways to doing just about anything technically complicated and then try to systematize the process is his goal. Many of Click IT products came about this way. (See Albert embraces the “work smarter not harder” philosophy, but this entails an ability to always place things in perspective as a process and commitment to learning new things. Albert began Click IT in 2012 to allow him to share his vast knowledge and expertise with others while making a living at it. He developed as an entrepreneur starting with cutting lawns in the neighborhood and stringing tennis rackets as a kid, to what he does currently. Along the journey, he has also acquired many patents and trademarks and built numerous successful companies from the ground up, employing hundreds of people over a span of more than 30 years. These businesses were started simply by having an idea, belief or notion he could do something better and make money at it while doing something good and helpful to others. Having the idea is one thing. Having the guts, stamina, and vision to take action and see it through is another.

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