Each and every day, countless attempts are made by cybercriminals to access and steal personal and financial information from unsuspecting users. Phishing emails remain the tool of choice for most cybercriminals, and while some are so poorly constructed that even the least savvy user can spot them for exactly what they are – if they make it past your spam filter and into your inbox in the first place – others are so well crafted it’s almost impossible to tell that they aren’t legitimate.
The more effort a hacker is willing to put forth, the harder it is for users to tell the difference between a phishing email, and a legitimate email. However, there are still several things you can look for to tip you off before unintentionally infecting your system with malware, or surrendering personal information to a cybercriminal.
- If you receive an email with an embedded link, always hover your mouse over the link before clicking. Shortening a link is common practice, but if the hyperlink that displays when you hover your mouse is vastly different from the address the message displays, do not click.
- Phishing emails often originate from a foreign country. If you receive an email from a large corporation or financial institution that contains spelling or grammar errors, it’s extremely likely that it’s a phishing email. When companies send out mass emails to clients or patrons, these messages are carefully reviewed prior to sending. Sloppy text is a strong indicator that something isn’t quite right.
- Most users get a steady number of ads, offers, and promotions from retailers, hotels, airlines, and other entities that they’ve had dealings with in the past. If you receive an email from a company you’ve never heard of or have never dealt with, whatever it is they’re trying to sell to you is more than likely a scam. The phrase “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is” applies perfectly to this scenario. The same logic applies messages informing you that you’ve won a contest you did not enter.
- Any request for personal information, passwords, or money should be treated with extreme caution. No reputable website, company, or financial institution will ever contact you to request personal details via email. If you receive an email that prompts you to provide this information either directly in the email, or by following a link, ignore it. Responding is a surefire way to have your account hacked, or your identity stolen. This also applies to messages that claim to be from government agencies or entities, such as the IRS.
- A popular tactic employed by a number of scammers is good old fashioned scare tactics. By using a threatening or otherwise alarming subject line, a cybercriminal will attempt to spook you into making a rash decision. An email threatening to cancel a bank account and seize funds if certain information is not forwarded to the sender immediately is a frightening message to receive, but is absolutely a scam.
The best way to protect yourself from falling victim to an online scam is to simply be cautious. Taking that extra moment before clicking a link or opening an attachment can often be all it takes to avoid triggering a data breach or malware infection. If something feels off, don’t ignore that feeling. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to keep yourself safe. As with most things in life, a little bit of common sense can go a very long way.
Want to find out more about how you can protect yourself and your business from cybercrime? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 313-9355 . We’re the IT professionals businesses in Raleigh trust.