Cybercriminals target anyone with an email address and the goal of getting personal information that could lead to a successful hack. Whether it’s for money, access to private files, or downloading malware onto company networks, phishing attacks are on the rise. Luckily, there are ways to spot phishing emails that mimic what you expect to see in your inbox. Look for these red flags in suspicious emails:
Strange Message Tone
There was a time when the quickest way to spot phishing emails was by looking for spelling and grammar errors. While scammers have gotten better at avoiding these mistakes, looking for other red flags is also important. A strange or unfamiliar tone is one of the first signs that an email may be a phishing attempt. Legitimate businesses typically address their customers by name rather than generic terms like “valued customer,” “customer,” or “dear sir/ma’am.” If the email asks for personal information like your social security number, bank account number, or PIN, it is likely a phishing attempt. Never will banks, credit card companies, or other financial organizations email you for this information.
Also, if the email includes a link that leads to a website other than the company’s official website, it’s likely a phishing attempt. Legitimate sites will usually have a prominent logo and easy-to-find contact information in the header or footer of the page. Another common indicator of a phishing email is a lack of details about the sender or how to contact them. Legitimate companies will always provide this information. If the email only has an email address, phone number, or social network link, it’s probably a hoax. Scammers may exploit these specifics to steal your identity or empty your bank account.
Spelling and Grammar Errors
Poor spelling and grammar are among the most common giveaways of a scam email. It is especially true if the emails are designed to impersonate a company or organization where most employees would likely use spell-checking tools to avoid such mistakes. Many scammers may write with a slang or conversational style that is not typical of the company or organization they are pretending to represent. Additionally, it is feasible for an email to start with a generic salutation like “dear customer,” which does not match the style of personal contact that employees generally send to one another within a firm.
These mistakes should serve as a red flag for any suspicious email, particularly when combined with other clues, such as the fact that the email does not pass SPF, DKIM, or DMARC checks. These three DNS records verify the sender’s identity and allow for verification of the authenticity of an email message. Cybercriminals count on the fact that most people need to take the time to carefully read and analyze suspicious emails before clicking on links or opening attachments. Knowing phishing “red flags” is an important step for everyone, especially those who handle or have access to sensitive data. With phishing attacks on the rise, all individuals must recognize these warning signs and can quickly and confidently identify malicious emails.
Many phishing scams use a sense of urgency to get their victims to take action. For example, they may claim that a deadline is approaching or their account has been compromised. This trickery can prompt people to click on the link and enter their private information into the fake website, where hackers will attempt to steal their identity. Cybercriminals know that people are more likely to be irritated when pressured. That’s why they often impose false deadlines in their emails. The “Nigerian prince” scam is a classic example, where the attacker pretends to be wealthy and needs your help.
Emails that lack thorough contact information are another red flag to look out for. Legitimate companies typically provide full names and contact details for their employees. Emails that don’t pass SPF, DKIM, and DMARC checks are also suspicious. These three DNS authentication protocols validate an email sender’s authenticity. It’s also important to remember that most companies will never ask for sensitive information, such as login credentials, over email. If you get an email asking you to supply this information, pause and consider it.
Too Good to Be True
Messages that offer too good to be true are an obvious red flag. Cybercriminals often attempt to incentivize victims to click on a link or open an attachment by providing them with a reward that sounds too good to be true. They may also suggest the offer is only valid for a limited time, encouraging users to respond quickly. When reading emails, carefully examine the entire email and domain name. Look for misspellings and grammatical errors inconsistent with the sender’s typical language. Also, check for unusual extensions that are not typically used for documents. Scammers are adept at crafting phishing messages to appear genuine, but with the right clues, it can be easy for email users to identify these malicious emails. Employees must have the knowledge and ability to identify these sorts of attacks.