Reeling It In: 5 Ways to Spot a Phishing Email

A recent study found that one in over 1,000 emails contains a phishing email. With today's technological advancements, phishing may seem inconsequential. However, with the right email, a hacker can access your information and commit identity theft, bank fraud, and much more.

Sadly, phishing can happen to anyone, even you. That's why it's important to be prepared.

With this guide, we've investigated the ins and outs of phishing. From what it is to the signs to look out for, you can learn how to avoid phishing scams today.

Now, are you ready to get started? Here's an in-depth look at how to spot a phishing email:

What Is a Phishing Email?

Phishing is a technique in which hackers con you into providing sensitive information or account data. Generally, they use emails to receive such information.

In fact, in order to catch your attention, hackers send emails claiming to be from a well-known company, organization, or even a government agency. In the email, they may ask you to click on a link, verify your personal information, or issue a warning sending you into a panic.

You see, hackers want you to mindlessly hand over your information, so they'll try to make the email look as professional as possible. Some hackers will even go as far as adding the company logo and a real employee's name to the email.

Then once your information is acquired, they'll create new credentials and steal your data. Sometimes they'll even install malware on your device to retrieve updated passwords, log-in information, and other data.

How to Spot a Phishing Email

Phishing is not a victimless crime. It can cause serious repercussions such as identity theft, social security fraud, financial loss, and damage to your reputation.

That's why it's crucial that you stay safe. However, the best way to be safe is to be educated on the subject. After all, do you know how to recognize a phishing email or the tactics scammers use?

Don't worry; you can find out below. Here's how to spot a phishing email:

Emails that Request Sensitive Information

If an email pops up asking for personal information such as your credit card information, social security number, or an account number, be cautious, it's likely a scam. After all, legitimate companies never request your sensitive information over email nor use a link to verify your data. Most companies verify information on the phone or in person.

However, scammers will go to extreme lengths to make you believe they are who they say. For example, they'll use the company's letterhead, logo and even create a fake website that looks identical to the real company.

You see, hackers don't want you to think logically. Instead, they want you to act impulsively because of the authority of the company. That way, you give up your information without even knowing you're being scammed.

Since scammers want to portray a powerful figure, they may say they're from a bank, IRS, or law firm in an attempt to intimidate you into handing over your information. Before you do, make sure you check recent scams or contact the company they are portraying to see if the email is real.

Emails that Aren't Personalized

A legitimate company always personalizes their emails that way; you know the email is directed to you. For example, legitimate companies call you by your name, recommend brands from which you've previously purchased, and sometimes even give you personalized coupons.

Whereas a phishing email will provide more generic language. You may see greetings like "Dear loyal customer" or "Dear account holder."

These greetings require no name to be present because they're targeting you but a mass amount of people. In fact, since they can copy and paste over and over in a variety of different formats, it makes for the perfect opener.

Although, sometimes phishing emails may not have a greeting. Scammers do this to save time on copying and formatting emails. Be suspicious if an email pops up and it lacks a custom greeting or doesn't have a personalized component altogether.

Emails that Contain Bad Spelling and Grammar

A telltale sign of a phishing scam is bad grammar and spelling mistakes. Most companies hire a copywriter to write their emails. In doing so, emails are sent with correct grammar and spelling. A legitimate company would never send out an email that's poorly written, so why does a phishing scam?

Some people believe it's a way to filter gullible people. As the theory goes, if a person were to ignore obvious clues, then they're less likely to recognize the scammers' endgame.

These spelling mistakes can be as small as switching the "ci" in America or not capitalizing the company's name. Since hackers are not native English speakers, they don't know English grammar rules or how to spell certain words in English.

Some scammers do use spellcheck or a translation service, which can help. However, words still may sound strange when used in a sentence.

That's why scammers try to scare you with their emails. They want you to pay attention to their threats; that way, you look past the mistakes and give them the information they want.

When the Domain Email Doesn't Make Sense

Every company has an email address that they use to send emails from. For instance, most company emails follow this format noreply@companyname.com.

Before you send any information to the company, check the email address to ensure it's not from a scammer. The email address should be readable and make sense. There should be no alterations, such as adding a number, letter, or special character to the address.

To help you filter through the real and fake emails, here are a few example email addresses that scammers tend to use:

  • Reply@company$name.com
  • Info@companyname1.org
  • Companyname@randomword.com

Emails that Contain Unsolicited Attachments

If you find an email that contains an unsolicited attachment, don't open it. Likely it contains malware that can affect your entire laptop. Not to mention, it can infect your passwords, log-in information, account numbers, and more.

This is an easy way that scammers can obtain your information without having to convince you to give it over yourself. Instead, with a simple click of a button, they can take any type of information they want.

However, remember that legitimate companies never expect you to open attachments through your email. Instead, they will send you a link in which you can download the attachment on their website, where you're safe and secure.

In order to look like legitimate companies, some scammers may use a suspicious link to infect your computer with malware. To be safe, hover over the link and see what website you would go to.

Look for any inaccuracies with the official website. It could be the smallest detail or a large error. For example, you might notice the period is in the wrong place, or perhaps the company name is spelled wrong.

By checking the website domain, it can help you detect scammers and avoid cyber attacks.

Emails that Scare You

Now, we have touched on this in some of the other sections; however, if you come across an intimidating email, it's a scam. No legitimate company wants to threaten you; instead, they will try to work with you. After all, what good will it do if they come across as intimidating? You see, they will have just lost a customer and thus a sale; that's just bad business.

A scammer, on the other hand, wants to come off as threatening. Their reasoning is two-fold. First, it grabs your attention, often taking you by surprise. Then it prompts you to act impulsively. You won't check their domain email or see their spelling mistakes because you're too wrapped up in the threat.

So if you see an email that is worded to intimidate you, breathe and take a step back. Look at the whole email from the email address to the logo and see if they're truly intimidating or if that's what they would like you to see.

Prevent a Cyberattack Today

Cyber attacks are never good. That's why it's crucial to prevent them every step of the way. Whether it be examining every email's grammar, attachments, or email address, you can prevent a scam easily and efficiently.

Here at Netdepot, we specialize in customized cybersecurity plans to ensure your business is secure and protected. Now, for more information about how to spot a phishing email, contact us today. We look forward to helping you!

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