According to Avanan’s 2019 Global Phish Report, 1 in every 99 emails is a phishing scam that contains malicious links. The software company analyzed 55 million emails, of which 25% of phishing scams managed to bypass Office 365 security.
Email phishing scams are definitely on the rise, but there are ways for users to avoid them. What helps cybercriminals scam people with phishing emails is the lack of awareness concerning phishing. People may know what it is, but many have no idea how to protect themselves.
You can effectively prevent cybercriminals from scamming you by learning how to spot a fake email. Here’s what to pay attention to.
Check the Email Address
A sender posing as a legitimate company will use an email address that’s similar to the legitimate one. Take a closer look by expanding the pane at the top of your email. You can also hover over the sender’s name to reveal the full email address.
If there are any inconsistencies with the official address, you should put the email on your block list.
Inspect the Links without Clicking on Them
Links in phishing emails either contain malware or take you to fake websites that look real. The same goes for attachments. If you click on a phishing link, you open the door for fraudsters to monitor your online activity, and discover your usernames, passwords, and bank details.
Hover your cursor over the link, and then do a quick Google search to check whether the link actually comes from a legitimate website.
Look Closely at Branding
Check the logo, and any other branding element that might indicate the email you received is fake. If it doesn’t look the same as other emails you’ve received from a particular brand, it’s very likely from a scammer.
Check for Spelling and Grammar Mistakes
Poor spelling and grammar mistakes are tell-tale signs that an email is fake. Official brands proofread their emails several times before sending them, so they’re always completely error-free.
Are They Asking for Your Personal or Bank Details?
If an email sender is asking for your personal or bank details, you can be absolutely sure they’re trying to scam you. No bank, or any other legitimate company, will ever ask you for personal information, let alone credit card details or passwords, via email.
Are They Prompting You to Update Your Account?
If you receive an email about updating a particular account, conduct the checks mentioned above first. Then check whether you’ve actually set up an account for that email, or you perhaps use another email for that account. It’s easy to overlook this if you use more than one email, so be careful.
A huge red flag is an email asking you to update your password right away to keep your account active. No one will ever close any account if you don’t update your password, so don’t ever fall for that.
Are They Pressuring You to Act Quickly?
Scammers often try to rush their targets, presenting them with limited-time offers and exclusive deals, so that they can act quickly. It can be tempting, but don’t let them pressure you into making a hasty decision. Take the time to check everything first.
Is There an Unexpected Cash Prize?
The most common phishing emails involve unexpected cash prizes, either from fake competitions, or fake inheritance scams. Have you ever entered any competition? These emails are always fake, so don’t let cybercriminals trick you.
How Can You Protect Your Data Online?
You can avoid phishing scams, and successfully protect your devices and data online by following all of the tips above. However, there are a few more steps that you should take.
Contact the Real Company Featured in a Suspicious Email
If you’ve received an email that looks a bit suspicious, the best way to really check its legitimacy is to get in touch with the company featured in the email. Contact them directly, and you’ll find out whether or not the email is fake.
Don’t Use Public WiFi
Public WiFi may be convenient, but it’s far from secure. It doesn’t use encryption, so anyone on the same network can easily monitor your online activity, and discover your usernames, passwords, and credit card details.
Use a VPN
A VPN is an excellent protection against any kind of cybersecurity threat. Virtual Private Networks provide advanced encryption, mask IP addresses, and hide each user’s online activity. Most reliable providers block malicious websites, so if you do click on a link in a phishing email, you might be saved from malware by your VPN.
It’s very easy to spot a fake email, but lots of people still don’t take the time to do so. Be smart, follow all these tips, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.