Signs That an Email Might Be a Phishing Scam
Phishing attacks are still a weapon of choice for cybercriminals. The most common way cybercriminals carry out phishing attacks is through email messages.
In email phishing scams, digital con-artists use a convincing pretense to lure you into performing an action, usually clicking a link or opening an attachment. Doing so can lead to malware being installed on your computer or your personal information being stolen.
One of the best defenses against this type of cyberattack is being able to spot phishing emails.
An email might be a phishing scam if it contains one or more of these 6 signs:
- A Generic Greeting
When cybercriminals send out phishing emails, they send them out to the masses. In a typical phishing attack, emails are sent to about 1 million people, according to Cisco Systems. As a result, the digital conartists often start the emails with a generic greeting, such as “Dear member” or “Dear customer”.
Another way cybercriminals avoid personal greetings is by using the recipient’s email address as the greeting (“Dear JaneDoe@ABCServices.com”) or just including a simple “Hello”. Occasionally, they might not even include a greeting.
- A Request to Update or Verify Information
The goal of some phishing attacks is to get personal information. Digital con-artists like to do this by posing as a legitimate institution and asking you to update or verify your information. If an email asks you to update or verify your password, credit card number, or bank account number, it is most likely a scam.
- A Sense of Urgency
A common tactic to get you to fall for a phishing scam is to create a sense of urgency. Cybercriminals first let you know about a problem that requires your attention. Then, they let you know that there will be unfortunate consequences if you do not take action quickly. For example, an email supposedly from a service provider might say that your credit card on file has expired and if you do not update it in the next 48 hours, you will experience a disruption in the service.
- A Deceptive Email “From” Address
Phishing emails sometimes include a deceptive email address in the “From” field. At first glance, the email address might seem legitimate. For instance, a digital con-artist might send out an email message using the address “email@example.com” instead of the real “firstname.lastname@example.org” address. Another way a digital con-artist might make up a “From” address is by creating a fake sender’s name.
Be sure to check the actual email address and domain carefully, not just the sender’s name to verify an email sender’s identity. If sensitive information is requested via email, reach out to the sender via phone to verify the request.
- A Deceptive URL
Many phishing emails include deceptive URLs. A deceptive URL is one in which the actual URL does not match the displayed linked text or web address. For example, the displayed text might specify a legitimate name or web address, but when you hover your cursor over it (without clicking it), you might discover that the actual URL leads to a different website that is malicious. These deceptive links can lead to fake websites that try to get your personal information or install malware on your computer.
- An Attachment
Legitimate organizations typically do not email files out of the blue. So, unless you specifically requested a document from an organization, be wary of any attachments supposedly emailed by one. Similarly, be wary of attachments emailed by individuals if you did not request any files. Many different types of files can contain malicious code, including PDF files, Microsoft Word (DOC and DOCX) documents, and executable (EXE) files. Opening these attachments might lead to malware being installed on your computer. When in doubt, reach out to the sender and verify they sent the email and attachment.
If you think you may have received a suspicious email and want us to investigate further, contact us today at 888-837-4466!
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