In a previous article, we mentioned how easy it is to fall victim to online scams, and that at some point in time nearly all of us have been a victim of some sort or another to a scammer. In part one of this article, we will look into a few telltale signs to help you more easily identify a phishing email. We will also look at how a scammer targets their recipients as well as how to minimize the possibilities of becoming a victim. In part two, we will look at what you should do if you have fallen victim to an Internet Scam.
Traits of a Phishing email
Anyone can mistakenly fall victim to a phishing scam, so it’s important that you should inform yourself about some of the modus operandi that scammers use. Scammers are always looking at different techniques in which to con us consumers, so although the ploy of a phishing attack can change dramatically email to email, there are several telltale signs that the email you opened is a phishing attack.
The email asks you to confirm your personal data
Emails requesting that you give personal data that is out of the ordinary and should be viewed with caution. Although the email may appear to be coming from a legitimate organization, banking information, Social Security number, credit card information, login credentials are all examples of information that institutions would never ask you to share your vital data online.
If you receive this type of email, never reply to it or click any hyperlinks. Notify the spoofed organization right away. If you do believe that the email is real, use another method like an invoice or online search to get the proper contact information for the organization in question – never use any communication method that was provided in the email.
Public Email Domain
No legitimate company would ever send an email from a public email domain.
If you receive an email from a purported organization, but the email domain is @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, @yahoo.com, you should not respond to the email. Delete it immediately, and to ensure that you do not receive another email from that address, many antivirus solutions will enable users actually to blacklist an email address. Make it your best practice to blacklist these types of emails.
Return Email Addresses
As you should be vigilant of emails that come from public email domains, you should also be always looking carefully at the return email addresses for all of the emails that you receive.
To trick recipients, scammers will often use email addresses that are similar to legitimate organizations – For example, “@mail.wellsfargo.com” instead of just “@wellsfargo.com.” When human beings typically read, their mind focuses on keywords and scan over other words. So in our example, scammers are relying on the fact that the recipient will only focus on “Wellsfargo.com” and ignore the fraudulent “mail” at the beginning.
Grammar, grammar, grammar
Poor spelling and grammar are sure signs that the email is a phishing scam. Most legitimate companies will work with professionals to craft a message that is error free. Poor grammar and spelling indicate that the email originated from a country where English is not prevalent and is almost certainly fake.
Receiving an email out of the blue from an organization with an attachment should set off alarm bells. If you do not know the organization or the email is unsolicited view the attachment as a virus. It may or may not be a virus, but it is best to be safe. A good antivirus solution like adaware will help prevent potential viruses from infecting our computer.
Emails that are threatening in tone or that are designed to set off panic in the recipient are most certainly spam. No legitimate organization would send threatening emails, if you receive one, delete and blacklist the sender.
How to not become a victim of a phishing attack
Keep your system up to date
- Install a leading antivirus solution – a good antivirus solution will eliminate the majority of phishing attack emails before they enter your system
- Install a good antimalware solution – antimalware solutions like Web Companion are designed to prevent you from going to malicious websites. So if you do accidentally click on a link in an email, your antimalware solution will prevent you from actually landing on that page.
- Back up your data –and make sure those backups aren’t connected to your home network.
- Set-up two-factor authentication – make sure for key accounts you require two or more factors to log in.
- If you receive an offer too good to be true, then most likely it is.
- If the email is threatening, ignore it. And if it has an attachment – delete it.
- Or if you are offered a prize – remember you can only win a prize for something you actually entered, so best delete it.
- Or if you receive an email from people who claim to know you – do not open unless you are sure it is the person in question and that you also know them.
- The golden rule is: if you are concerned – delete it!