Be Aware! How to Spot Phishing Emails
Phishing emails are malicious emails sent by criminals attempting to compromise your personal information. They often appear to be legitimate. So beware!
Most phishing emails are disguised as messages from an authoritative entity asking you to visit a website and enter personal information. These websites are set up to gather personal details, which they can then use to hack into your accounts and commit fraud. Some links and attachments in these emails contain malicious software, known as malware, which will install itself on your computer. Malware then collects data such as usernames and passwords.
If you recognize these emails, delete them immediately. Even technically savvy individuals can fall prey to such malicious activity. Being able to recognize these emails will lessen your chances of being compromised. Here are a few tips:
- Email Address. This is the first thing you should look at. Criminals use two tricks when crafting email addresses. First, they’ll put a real company’s name before the “@“sign to make it look credible. Second, they’ll use a web address similar to the genuine one. Scammers will craft phishing email addresses almost (but not exactly) identical to the real addresses. Check these emails carefully to make sure they are exactly the same as the real web address.
- Generic Greetings. Being cautious of emails with generic greetings such as “Dear Valued Customer” or “Dear Valued Employee”. Look for poor spelling, punctuation or grammar. Scammers will go to great lengths to make their phishing emails look authentic. They’ll use an actual company logo and even the names of people who are employed at the company.
- Links. If a link appears within the email, hover your cursor over the link to view the underlying address. Check to see where it would take you if you were to click on the link.
- Sense of Urgency. Phishing emails may use phrases such as “act quickly” to create a sense of urgency in order to lure their targets in. These scammers may make you feel as if you’re missing out on something. They want to pique your curiosity or exploit your fear to push you into an instant response.
- Name. Look to see whose name is at the end of the email. If it’s from a person, is their name in the email address and does the email address appear valid?
These types of emails are just generic emails which are sent out to large groups of people, knowing that it only takes a few people to click to make the effort worthwhile to the scammers.
Spear Phishing. Criminals who target specific individuals use what is called “spear phishing.” Spear Phishing emails are even more sophisticated than your run-of-the-mill phishing emails, often using personal information obtained from social media pages to make the emails appear credible. These cyber criminals might use your name or tailor the email to reflect your hobbies, interests, where you live or events that are happening locally. They may even make the email look as if it came from the organization you work for. People are sometimes targeted because of their position within the company or because they have access to sensitive data.
We all face the grueling task of trying to manage our email. While email is a very convenient mode of communication and most of it is genuine, knowing the signs of phishing emails will prevent you from unleashing a disaster.
When in doubt, don’t click! Contact your IT administrator. And remember, legitimate organizations will never ask you to disclose personal data via email.
For more information, please see “Recommended Practices – Part 4: Email Use” in the November 2014 edition of Bryley Information and Tips (BITs).
Bryley Systems specializes in protecting you from malware. Contact us at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We’re here for you.
Read this case study about a particularly vicious attack that Bryley remediated.