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How to Spot a Fraudulent or Phishing Email Scam

Do you know that feeling when you get a suspicious email and are unsure whether you should open it? How well can you spot a fraudulent or legitimate email?

Phishing is not a new trend at all.

In fact, it’s a common occurrence that cybercriminals have orchestrated for a number of years. They use it as a means of attack against you with the main aim of retrieving sensitive information. However, the number and complexity of phishing scams have increased recently, making it hard for one to spot a fraudulent email. The worst part is that everyone is vulnerable to these emails.

Despite the technological advances that tech has made in the antivirus detection processes and protocols, phishing emails seem to continue to be a crisis that people need to address. In the meantime, you can highly benefit from seeking information on how to spot these kinds of emails.

Below is everything you need to know about fraudulent or phishing email scams, from what they are and how they operate, to the red and green flags to watch for when navigating your email inbox. Especially, when it comes to your business.

What is a Phishing or Fraudulent Email Scam?

Phishing emails are a hacker’s technique of getting their way into your personal account data and information. After the hackers get the information, they install malware into your system or create new user credentials. The malware is often used to steal sensitive data.

The Red Flags to Watch for

While the digital space can be so crucial and beneficial to your business, there are some areas of concern that you should be aware of and watch closely. This includes but is not limited to the credibility of emails that land in your inbox.

The scary part about the Internet is how quick and easy it is to retrieve someone’s information from the web, without even having to hack their database or lure them into disclosing confidential information. Hackers have come up with different ways to collect your personal information from your online publications, social media accounts and even professional profiles too. Once they retrieve this information, they can easily curate emails that make you feel like you know the sender.

The best way to protect yourself from such attempts is awareness, knowing the red flags you need to look out for. Along with equipping yourself with the right knowledge and information, having an experienced digital partner can also help you better navigate these gray areas. Our team of experts at IMP Digital are here to help you navigate areas of concern online, including suspicious emails.

Keep an eye on incoming emails, here are the red flags to watch for:

1. Poor Grammar and Spelling Mistakes 

You can spot suspicious emails by their use of bad grammar and spelling mistakes. If the organization sending you emails was legitimate, they would use formal language and the message would be well written. Surprisingly enough, you’ll come to find that this use of bad grammar is intentional on the hackers’ end.

They often use this to bait those who are less observant, making them easy targets.

2. Unfamiliar Salutations or Greetings

Phishing emails typically look fishy once you give them a closer look. A common factor that can sell out a scam email is generic salutations such as “Dear esteemed member.”  Suppose an organization requires any communication from you.

In that case, they will probably use your official name and advice that you reach out via a phone number or through their customer service on their official websites.

3. Suspicious Attachments

Hackers love to send emails that contain attachments. It’s good to be aware that institutions do not send you emails that consist of attachments on a random basis. They’ll direct you to download files or documents from their websites.

Be aware of attachments that come in the following file types; exe, .scr, and .zip.

4. Demanding Your Urgent Attention

Phishers prey on the sense of urgency in hopes that you will be quick to click a malicious URL link or download an attachment that contains a virus that will infect your computer or steal your information. An example of this kind of email could come in the form of ‘Urgent! Your inbox is almost full!’ Click here to expand your storage capacity. They could also trick you into thinking that suspicious attempts on your account that you need to handle.

Hackers exploit this technique because they know it will cause you to worry about the consequences of not attending to this great request immediately.

5. Login Credentials and Payment Requests

Hackers are prone to using this tactic. You will receive an email that asks you to either update or provide personal information on one of your accounts. This could be a request to update your bank account details, account passwords, or social security number. It is important to note that no company or organization will request any of your sensitive information via email.

They won’t also send a link asking you to log in. This should immediately alert you that the email is a scam.

How to Know if an Email is Safe

Hover Over the Link

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself in the internet world is the art of careful clicking. Only click links that you receive from a trustworthy domain or sender. For extra prevention, hover over the link sent to determine which URL it leads to. Examining URL links will also tell you if the HTTPS of a site is secure and whether the site will encrypt your data in transit.

A Good Mix of Text and Images

Most spammers will send an email that contains an image as the message body. One of the tell-tale signs of a legitimate email is a good mix of images and texts.

Check for Hosted Malware

If you are still skeptical about the email in your inbox, you can examine it further on a safety page that you can find on Google. This will reveal if the page has hosted malware in the recent 90 days.

Contact the Company

Does the email appear to be coming from your bank or another company that you either work with or purchase services from? If you’re unsure about the credibility of an email, simply give the company a phone call and verify if it is indeed legitimate or not. If it isn’t, chances are that the company would like to know about the fraudulent communication so that they can either investigate or warn other customers.

How to Prevent Scam or Fraudulent Emails

There are a bunch of ways through which you can prevent scams or fraudulent emails from hitting your inbox.

These can include:

  • Marking fishy emails as spam
  • Keeping your email address private
  • Thinking wisely before clicking on any link
  • Use a third-party spam app that will filter your emails accordingly
  • Avoid and cancel subscriptions to existing mailing lists
  • Block spam emails instead of interacting with them
  • Use a different secondary email address when signing up for subscriptions and marketing emails
  • Add protection to any website forms you may sign up on, which will probably send an email to your inbox when completed.

Are suspicious emails are coming through via a form on your website? There are ways to prevent this. Our team at IMP Digital would be happy to review your website or the webpage in question, inspect the form and add protective measures, such as reCAPTCHA.

How Your Digital Marketing Agency Can Help

Becoming a victim of a fraudulent or phishing email scam is more common than you may think.

As hackers continue to succeed in scamming people, this calls for due diligence when dealing with essential and private information. Now that you are aware of the signs to look out for, you can easily identify a scam or phishing email. In addition, you can protect yourself further by taking steps to prevent these emails from getting into your inbox in the first place.

If you receive a suspicious email, please feel free to contact our team of digital experts for help. We will gladly review an email for you and help determine if the communication is legitimate or suspicious. For more information, view other resources in our blog or get in touch with us today.