Every year, millions of dollars are lost due to malware infections on computers around the country. One of the most insidious forms of malware is phishing email. In this scenario, a cyber-criminal poses as a perfectly legitimate source, such as a bank, a well-known online financial institution, or something else. The email is intended to extract personal details, such as credit card numbers or bank account details. In many cases, the phisher attaches malware to the email, such as keyloggers or Trojans. The whole idea is to trick the victim into clicking on a malicious link or tell them important details.
How to Spot a Phishing Email
Phishing emails can affect anyone, from employees at a company, to regular homeowners. These emails are especially successful over other methods because they look legitimate and engage with the victim on a social level. People then feel more obliged to respond to the email or click a link that looks legitimate.
You can read up on how to spot a phishing email online, but here are the major things to remember:
- Spelling: Even though many phishing criminals do their best to impersonate official and legitimate entities, bad spelling and poor grammar are hallmarks of many phishing emails. They are improving, but many of them are written by people with English as a second language, and for a native English speaker, the difference is easy to spot.
- The sender: Official institutions will always have legitimate looking emails. Phishing scam emails will usually originate from a foreign email address, a free email address, or look very odd. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of the email or what it is asking you to do, always check the sender and the email address it was sent from.
- Money: Though some phishing scammers are quite sophisticated, the motivation is always the same: they want your money or personal information. If the email asks you outright for any of this information, it is wise to be suspicious about the legitimacy of it, especially if it is from an entity or a business that would not normally ask these questions upfront.
- A windfall: There are lots of phishing scams that offer extravagant winnings, an inheritance, or some role to play in the proceeds of a deceased estate that is significant. Always be doubtful of emails that seem too good to be true. In most cases, they are phishing scams out for your money.
Even though there are many cyber-criminals operating, it is important not to become too paranoid. Most people at one time or another receive phishing emails, but being vigilant and keeping the above points in mind will help keep you relatively safe and secure.