Microsoft is sending out free $100 gift cards through email to 50,000 customers: Here are the five tips to avoid being duped.

EMAILS FROM MICROSOFT featuring no-strings-attached gift cards are flooding inboxes, but criminals will try to capitalize on the company's goodwill with a copycat message that might capture your personal information and compromise your devices.

Here are the measures to take to assess whether your email gift card is genuine or a cleverly disguised scam perpetrated by a savvy hacker.

"To help spread holiday cheer, Microsoft Store has surprised a total of 50, 000 U.S. customers with virtual gift cards via email," a Microsoft spokeswoman told The Verge.

"These randomly chosen individuals can redeem their gift card on the Microsoft Store until December 31, 2021, and spend it within 90 days of redemption."

According to Microsoft, half of those chosen will receive a $100 gift card, while the other half will receive a $10 gift card.

If you receive a gift card in a different amount, such as $25 or $500, it is not part of the official campaign and is likely a scam.

The official email from Microsoft is headed "Here's $100 to get you started on your holiday shopping."

Open any email that appears to be from Microsoft but has a different subject line.

Be especially suspicious of subject lines like "Congratulations," "You've Won," or "URGENT: OPEN NOW."

The official Microsoft gift card has a 90-day expiration date.

Any gift cards issued as a result of this promotion should be sent directly from a @microsoft.com email address.

Examine the email address used to send the gift card carefully.

Be wary if the email purports to be from Microsoft but originates from an email address that ends in @microsoft1.com, @microsoft.web, or a similar address.

Take note of the sender's name as well.

You might be able to trust an email from "Admin" or "Customer Support," but an email purporting to be from Bill Gates, for example, is most certainly a forgery.

Microsoft is delivering gift cards to existing customers who have email addresses on file with them.

You will only receive an email if you have a Microsoft account, such as Skype or Xbox Live.

If you've never used Microsoft's services or purchased their products, you should be wary of emails purporting to be from the corporation.

Also, if you have numerous email addresses, double-check that the email address from which you received the gift card is the same one you use for Microsoft services.

Proceed with caution if your Skype account is tied to your Hotmail account, but you receive a "free gift" to your Gmail account.

You should not need to download or open a file to use your gift card because Microsoft is issuing them as codes redeemable on the Microsoft website.

An email that has a huge attachment or instructs you to download a document from a third-party website in order to use the gift card is most likely not from Microsoft.

Be aware of PDF and Excel files, which are frequently disguised to appear as secure communications but actually present a phishing opportunity.

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