Would you know if you were the subject of a phishing attack? Many people claim that they’d be able to tell right away if they received an email from an illegitimate source. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be 1.5 million new phishing websites every month. A 65% increase in attacks in one year! Hackers would have moved on to the next idea for swindling people out of their identities and money.
Unfortunately, hackers are using phishing attacks every day. Why? Because they work! Phishing emails take very little effort to create, and, if they get results, they can bring in a lot of money.
So, how do you spot a phishing attack and avoid becoming a victim? Let’s go over some key elements of phishing attempts so you can be prepared before you become a victim.
Look for these red flags:
Sender Email Address: Always check to make sure that the email address is legitimate. Amateur hackers will send things from Gmail or Hotmail accounts and hope you don’t notice. More sophisticated hackers will closely mimic an actual email domain, like amazonprime.com rather than amazon.com. Double check the email address before responding, clicking, or opening, even if the from name appears correct.
Discrepancies in Writing Format: If the attack is from overseas, you’re likely to notice some small issues in writing format, like writing a date as 4th April, 2021 rather than April 4, 2021. While this is subtle, it is a huge red flag.
Grammar Issues: We all fall victim to the occasional typo, but if you receive an email riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, consider the source. It’s likely from a hacker, especially if the email supposedly comes from a major organization.
Sender Name: This one is also difficult to track, but phishing emails will typically close with a very generic name to avoid raising suspicion. You should recognize the people who send you emails. Or, at the very least, you should clearly understand their role in their organization.
Link Destination: Before you click on any link in an email be sure to hover over it. The destination URL should pop up. Check out the domain name of this URL. Similar to the sender email address, make sure that this address is legitimate before clicking.
Attachments: Is it realistic to expect an attachment from this sender? Rule of thumb, don’t open any attachment you don’t expect to receive, whether it’s a Zip file, PDF or otherwise. The payload for a ransomware attack often hides inside these phony surprises.
Email Design: A kooky font like Comic Sans should immediately raise red flags. Especially if you don’t clearly recognize the sender. Also watch out for weird spacing, kooky graphics, and color fonts.
Links to Verify Information: Never ever click on a link to verify information. Instead, if you think the information does need updating go directly to the website. Type in your email and password, and update your information from the Account tab. Always go directly to the source.
Odd Logo Use: Hackers try their best to mimic a websites’ look and feel. Oftentimes, they get very close; but they won’t be perfect. If something feels off, it probably is.
While there is no fool-proof method for avoiding falling victim to a phishing attack, knowing how to spot likely culprits is one step in the right direction. As you can gather from the above tips, if an email looks fishy, it probably is (phishy).
Use these tips to double-check any email you might have doubts about. Be especially careful of links and attachments. Double-check the return address. If the questionable email looks like it’s from a large company, let’s use Amazon as an example, but the return address is something like [email protected], then it’s not from Amazon.
As always, if you are unsure about the safety of an email, contact us right away. We are here to ensure your safety. It’s our job to protect you from every type of cybersecurity attack, phishing attacks included.