20 Ways to Spot Phishing Emails, Viruses, and Other Harmful Emails
In today’s digital age, the email inbox can be a battleground. Unbeknownst to many, it’s not just spam but phishing emails, viruses, and other malicious activities that pose threats. Here’s how to protect yourself and your digital ecosystem:
Check the Sender’s Email Address
What to Do: Always look at the sender’s email address, not just their name. Fraudsters often use familiar names with a slightly altered email address.
Look for Spelling and Grammar Errors
What to Do: Official emails are typically well-written. Be cautious of emails riddled with errors. The bad grammar and spelling are not necessarily a mistake either; they can be intentional to weed out savvier recipients.
Scrutinise the Greeting
What to Do: Generic greetings like “Dear Customer” can be a red flag. Reputable organisations usually personalise their communications.
Analyse the Content and Tone
What to Do: Is the email urging quick action like updating your details, claiming a prize, or confirming a subscription you don’t remember? Be sceptical, as phishing emails prey on people’s anxiety.
Beware of Hyperlinks
What to Do: Hover your cursor over any hyperlink to see the actual URL. Hyperlink text could say “login to your account” but the link goes to a spoof page, where they can get your sensitive data and login details. If it looks suspicious or doesn’t match the supposed sender, don’t click.
Check for Attachments
What to Do: Be wary of unexpected attachments. These could contain viruses or malware. The most common types of attachment scammers use are PDFs, but they can be virtually anything. A new type of business scam is to pretend the user has a voicemail to listen to, but the attachment takes them to an html page to enter their details.
Inspect the Signature
What to Do: Legitimate emails will usually have a professional signature with contact details. The lack of these could be a sign of a phishing email. Larger corporations will often have a headshot in their signatures, which is another good sign to look for.
Look for Unusual Requests
What to Do: Emails asking for personal or financial information are almost always a scam. Banks, and legit companies, will never ask you to send sensitive information.
Examine the Timing
What to Do: Phishing emails often arrive at odd hours. The timing can sometimes be an indicator of foul play. This can be due to the scammer sending the phishing email from a different country, in a different time zone.
Check for Threatening Language
What to Do: Statements that invoke fear or urgency are a classic tactic in phishing emails. Try to never feel pressured to do anything you are unsure of.
Verify with the Official Entity
What to Do: When in doubt, contact the institution directly to verify the email’s legitimacy. Do not use the details in the email you received, as these will most certainly be fake. Use a search engine to find the right company details and contact them directly.
Search for the Subject Line
What to Do: Phishing emails are sent out en masse, meaning there will be other people talking about it. Do a quick Google search of the email’s subject line to see if it matches known email phishing attempts.
Use Email Security Features
What to Do: Make use of spam filters and security features provided by your email service. These can filter out many harmful emails automatically.
Be Cautious with Pop-Up Forms
What to Do: Never enter personal information in pop-up forms that appear when you open an email.
Keep Software Updated
What to Do: Ensure that your browser, Operating System, and antivirus software are up to date. These often contain security patches that can protect you from malware.
Trust Your Instincts
What to Do: If something feels off, it probably is. Trust your gut feeling and proceed with caution.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
What to Do: Employing MFA adds an extra layer of security, making it harder for scammers to gain access to your accounts.
Report Suspicious Emails
What to Do: Report any suspicious emails to your email provider and, if they are impersonating a company, to that company.
What to Do: Share your knowledge about spotting harmful emails with friends and family.
Regularly Review Account Statements
What to Do: Regularly review bank and other financial statements for unauthorised activity.
Keep up to date with how phishing emails are evolving
By knowing how to identify the tell-tale signs of phishing emails and viruses, you can greatly reduce the risk of falling victim to scams and other malicious activities. Stay vigilant and stay safe.