We've all seen the suspicious email where it has enough information to seem legitimate but we're only half sure if they're real or not. Sometimes they're sent at the right time at the right place, coincidentally or not, and it makes the email seem much more realistic that it actually is, leading many of us eager enough to exploit it. What are some ways we can screen and double check to avoid this?
What are Phishing Emails?
A phishing email is an email scam designed to trick you into thinking it's from a legitimate company and ask you to provide sensitive information or to click on a malicious link. It would usually take you to a website to fill out your information, but the website is a clever fake and it the information you provide goes straight to the scammers.
The word "phishing" is a spin-off from "fishing", as it denotes criminals dangling fake 'lures' to try to get your information or money.
How to Identify a Phishing Email
There are many ways to ensure that the email you're reading is actually a scam, and here is a list of dangerous red flags to look out for:
Bad grammar, punctuation, or writing. Real companies pay their employees well to present their content as reputable as possible, so consistent lapses of grammar, punctation or writing could be a deterrent against legitimacy.
Email is not addressed to a general person. Any service provider that has a legitimate reason to ask for sensitive information would likely address the email to your full name exactly as you've stated when you subscribed or made an account. Of course, it's fully possible a scam might have your name as well, so be wary that your information could be already out there.
Suspicious sender information. Double check the party sending you the email. Is it some generic name like John Doe? Is it 'App1e Inc' pretending to be Apple? Any clear mishaps in the sender's identification should be a clear red flag of their authenticity.
Suspicious links. Hover over any links that the email provides. Scammers often provide a legitimate website address like 'www.hotspot.co' (hover over this link), but actually leads to another site, likely a site where they conduct their scamming.
Faulty design. If the logo of the email is off-centered or the format of the email is done so unprofessionally, this might be a flag against the authenticity of the email.
Suspicious attachments. Make sure to always double check that any attachments in an email is actually something you need. It's very rare that a company actually requires you to download something through email, you should only download from reputable sites.
How to Avoid Phishing Emails
Once you've identified a phishing attempt, you might wonder how that email even got sent to you in the first place. There are plenty of ways to avoid falling for the trap or getting sent phishing emails in the future:
Use your own link. If you know the company you're dealing with yourself, you see suspicious links in the email and you're still unsure if the issue is real, navigate to the company's site using your own link or through a search engine.
Use a spam filter. Most email providers in the modern day will provide this service for you. Of course, the occasional spam email will pass through and those ones are usually the hardest to identify. Make sure to follow each and every step stated above.
Ask the company itself. Consult a professional from the company you're dealing with to make sure that the email is legitimate.
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