Phishing emails have traditionally been easy to spot by looking for signs such as misspelled words and unsolicited links and attachments. Although phishing emails are not a new occurrence, they have become a part of our daily lives. With the advancement of technology, however, the cybercriminals behind these phishing emails now have developed new ways to scam their victims. Regardless of these advancements, there are still ways to protect yourself from phishing emails.
Continue reading to find out how to spot phishing emails and protect yourself from falling victim to them.
What Is a Phishing Email?
A phishing email is the most common form of a phishing attack. Phishing is a cyber attack that tries to trick potential victims into revealing their confidential information such as login credentials or credit card numbers. Phishing emails do this by sending unsolicited emails to victims with the goal of the victim opening a malicious attachment or link.
These emails can pretend to be someone the victim knows such as a friend, coworker, family member or company. Typically, cybercriminals will try to get you to open a malicious link that either downloads malware onto your device or directs you to a spoofed website to steal your personal information. Once these cybercriminals have stolen your personal information, they use it for their own personal gain such as stealing your identity or money or selling your personal information on the dark web.
Why Should I Look Out for Phishing Emails?
According to AAG, 3.4 billion phishing emails are sent every day. Phishing emails go to people all around the world and many fall victim to them, resulting in a range of implications from security breaches to identity theft. Users need to stay vigilant online or risk exposing their personal information to cybercriminals. If your personal information has been compromised, then cybercriminals can steal your money or commit crimes under your name.
Phishing emails continue to be dangerous with the advancement of technology such as AI. AI-generated phishing emails look closer to legitimate ones as they have fewer spelling and grammatical errors. They can also emulate the tone and writing style of a real person. Since AI-generated emails can read like well-written, human emails, users need to be on the lookout for signs of phishing emails or they may fall victim to these cyber threats.
Signs of a Phishing Email
Phishing emails can be scary to receive but are generally easy to identify. Here are some signs to spot a phishing email.
Sent by a suspicious sender
Although phishing emails try to pose as a familiar face or company, there are often discrepancies between the sender’s name and email address. The sender’s name may not match up with the email address. Corporate emails that are sent from a public domain email address such as Google or Yahoo are a dead giveaway for phishing emails. If you are suspicious about an email, you should try directly contacting the company or person through other reliable means such as calling them or typing in their website address in your browser, instead of clicking on the link to it contained in the message.
Many phishing emails will demand something from you with a sense of urgency. They threaten you with negative consequences to get you to act rashly without giving you the opportunity to think over the situation.
For example, an email posing as your bank asks you to sign in to your account by clicking on a link in the email, or else your account will be deactivated. When you open the link, it looks similar to your bank’s legitimate website. So, you log in with your account information but have unknowingly just exposed it to a threat actor.
Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes
Phishing emails typically contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. This is an easy way to spot a phishing email, especially if it tries to impersonate a company. Oftentimes, these emails contain grammar and spelling mistakes because the cybercriminals are not fluent in the native language they’re being written in.
Real companies review their emails for mistakes multiple times before sending them. If you receive an email from a reputable company with spelling or grammatical errors, you should not click on anything that’s contained within or attached to the email.
Suspicious attachments or links
If an email contains a suspicious attachment or link, especially if it was never explicitly asked for, then you are most likely looking at a phishing email. These suspicious attachments can install malware and compromise your device. Once malware is installed on your device, cybercriminals can track your activity and steal your personal data.
More commonly, phishing emails include suspicious links to spoofed websites that can steal a victim’s sensitive information. Cybercriminals can use spoofed sites to install malware onto a victim’s device when they click on the link. Spoofed sites can also impersonate legitimate ones to harvest a victim’s personal information when they enter their credentials.
Request for sensitive information
Requesting sensitive information is a clear sign of phishing emails. Phishing emails will ask you for your login credentials, credit cards, addresses or other personal data. Real companies never ask for this information over email, so you should be wary when being asked to provide it. You should always be protective over your sensitive information.
If you have ever received an email with an offer that seems too good to be true, then it most likely is. Cybercriminals will try to convince you that you won a reward and can receive it by clicking a link or downloading an attachment. They will write anything to trick you into falling for their schemes. You should do some research on the sender, as well as the offer, before doing anything that could potentially put you at risk of a security breach.
How To Protect Yourself From Phishing Emails
Here are some ways you can protect yourself from phishing emails.
Secure your accounts with strong and unique passwords
The best way to secure your online accounts is by using strong and unique passwords. Cybercriminals try to compromise your online accounts to gain access to your other private information, such as your credit card information. However, using a strong password and a different password for each account makes it much more difficult for cybercriminals to gain access to them.
Creating and maintaining all of your unique passwords is a difficult task for one person to do on their own. Using a password manager will help you create and store all of your passwords in a secure, encrypted vault.
Enable MFA to all of your accounts
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is an additional layer of security that requires users to provide more than one form of authentication to access an account. MFA helps protect your online accounts even if your password has been compromised. Cybercriminals who have stolen your login credentials can’t log in to your account without fully verifying through MFA.
Do not reveal any sensitive information
You should never give up your sensitive information easily, especially over email. Information such as your Social Security and credit card numbers should be kept secret unless it’s absolutely necessary to share them. Checking the legitimacy of the website and company will help protect yourself from falling victim to phishing emails. However, if you do need to share sensitive information for a legitimate reason, never send it over email or other unsecured methods. Instead, use secure password-sharing methods to protect your private information from falling into the wrong hands.
Check emails for any errors
Phishing emails typically contain spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or technical discrepancies layered throughout. You should look out for any of these errors to check the legitimacy of the email. Reviewing an email’s contents can help you identify and avoid phishing emails.
Check the link before clicking on it
The links of phishing emails tend to replace legitimate characters from the URL with characters that look similar (e.g. go0gle.com with a zero instead of an “o”). This is a dead giveaway the link goes to a spoofed site. It is best practice not to click on any unsolicited links. You should always check to see if a link is safe by hovering over the link and looking for any mistakes. You can also use a URL checker to check the safety of a link.
Use antivirus software
Antivirus software is a program that protects your device from any known viruses by detecting and removing them. Some antivirus software can scan email attachments and detect viruses. Once detected, the virus will be flagged, and your device will be protected.
Stay up to date on cyber threats
As cybercriminals develop new techniques to trick users, you should stay up to date on new threats to protect yourself. You should educate yourself about the current cyber threats in order to help recognize them.
Use Keeper To Avoid Phishing Emails
Keeper Password Manager can help protect you from phishing emails. Password managers create and securely store your passwords, making it difficult for cybercriminals to gain access to your accounts. A password manager can also differentiate a fake site from a real one and protect you from revealing your login credentials. Protect yourself from phishing emails today by signing up for your free trial of Keeper Password Manager.