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How to Spot a Phishing Email

Phishing emails are a common way for online scammers to gain personal information or money.

They are effective because many people don’t understand what a phishing email is or how to spot a scam.

In this article, we’re looking at what you should watch out for so you don’t become a victim to these attacks. 

 

What is a Phishing Email

 

Phishing is a form of scam used to elicit personal information, steal money or install viruses onto your device. A phishing email is designed to imitate an email from a real person or company e.g. a bank or delivery company. 

Most phishing emails are made to sound urgent, asking you to click a link and enter information (such as a password or card details) or make a payment. If you follow the instructions, the scammers then have your information or money and can use it to their advantage.

How to Spot a Phishing email

 

Although some phishing emails can look super realistic at first, there are usually ways to identify if the message you’ve received isn’t legit. Let’s take a look at what you should be looking out for when trying to spot a phishing email.

Are you expecting this?

Your first thoughts when receiving an email is whether you’re expecting it. Usually, when you are expecting an email from a certain someone or business, the message you’ll receive will be real. But, if you receive an email from someone, for example your bank, when you aren’t expecting this, be extra cautious when looking at it.

It’s also obvious that the email is fake when it’s from a business that you don’t interact with e.g. when you receive an email from NatWest bank but you use Barclays.

Sender Information

The first way to tell if the email is an attempted phishing attack is by looking at the user who sent it. Look out for grammar mistakes like misspelled words or a number replacing a letter e.g. the number “1” being used as the letter “i”. In this example, we have an email from “Lloyds TSB”. Looking at the sender address, you’ll see they’ve used the letter “L” instead of an “i” in the ‘authentication’ part. Without paying attention, anyone would think the sender of this email was the real Lloyds bank.

Look out for Links

A key part to look out for when identifying a phishing email is if there are any links.

If the email includes a button link, you can hover over the button and you’ll be able to see the full link and where you’ll be taken to if you were to click it. Similar to the sender information, a link may include switched characters or grammar mistakes, for example, a fake link to sign into Microsoft may be M1crosoft.com, with the number “1” being used instead of the letter “i”.

However, some links might not be like this and will be completely random with nothing to do with the “business” that has sent you the email. These types of links should also indicate that the email is a phish.

Here we have a fake NatWest email for example. The first thing you can see is that the link starts with http and not https, meaning, the link is not secure. Another thing to notice is that this link compared to the legit NatWest online banking link is very different. Even if the link looks convincing, do not click it. It’s much better and safer to search for NatWest online yourself and log in that way. 

Overall Layout

The first thing you will probably notice about the email is the layout and how it looks. If it’s a poorly designed email with text all over the place, it’s more likely a phishing email. However, with a good layout, these emails can be disguised as a real one.

In this example, we have a phishing email from a fake Netflix. The first thing to notice is the logo and the fact it’s missing a letter. This is an instant red flag. 

Another thing to note is how the email doesn’t address you. The email opens by saying hi. Usually when a trustworthy company contacts you, they include your name at the start of the email. 

Overall, the layout of this email isn’t the best. If you were expecting an email from Netflix, you would think it would look a bit more well built (and of course using the correct name and logo).

What happens if I open a phishing email?

 

There’s no need to worry if you open a phishing email. You just need to make sure that no links are clicked on and no information has been given. Clicking a button or link won’t always take you to a fake sign in page and could potentially install a virus onto your device instead, so it’s crucial that you are aware of phishing emails from the moment you receive them.

 

In depth look into phishing emails

 

If you’re still worried about getting caught out by phishing emails, take a look at this video, where we take a more in depth look at some more phishing examples. 

 

Are there other Phishing types other than emails?

 

Yes. Not only can you potentially get caught out by phishing emails, but you must also be aware of the other types of phishing scams. Some of the more common techniques include:

 

SMS Phishing

As well as phishing attacks via email, you also need to look out for phishes being sent by text/sms. Along side emails, SMS phishing is very common and is as successful for scammers.

You might receive a message similar to the examples above, where a bank messages you or more recently, messages from the “NHS” regarding covid tests or vaccines.

If you receive a text message from any unknown number, which wants you to click a link and enter details, you should ignore to avoid any scams. 

WiFi Hotspots

Known as ‘Evil Twin’, Scammers create fake WiFi networks and often make them look legitimate. So when you’re out and about and want to connect to a public connection, you need to make sure what you’re connecting to is secure.

An example of an evil twin would be a free WiFi point in a Starbucks Coffee shop. You might think that what you’re connecting to is Starbucks’ WiFi connection, however, be aware that the connection is legit and not create by a scammer.

Ways to check is if the network requires a password. (Majority of public WiFi points don’t require a password to connect). You can also avoid these scams by simply using your mobile data if possible.

Pop ups

You’ve won a new iPhone!

I bet you’ve seen this message pop up before when you’re browsing the web. This in fact would be a phishing attack. Usually, if you see a pop up telling you you’ve won a competition or it’s too good to be true, it’ll be a phish.

These might appear on random websites either along the side of the page or might just pop up and cover the entire screen. Either way, you should avoid these.

HTTPS Phishing

HTTPS is considered a safe link to click because it uses encryption to increase security. However, many scammers creates fake replicas of websites and impersonate companies.

Make sure that if you find a link in any message, that the link begins with HTTPS. If there is no ‘S’ and the link begins with HTTP, it means the link isn’t secure, and potentially is a scam.

How to recognise a phishing email every single time

 

After reading through those previous tips, you should now have a greater knowledge about phishing emails. However, you might be thinking, “how can I notice a phishing email every single time?”

Inlcluded in Reformed IT’s support package, our clients receive the best cyber security training. This means the whole business can learn everything there is to defend against scams, including phishing emails.

If this is something you think your business could benefit from, give us a call on 01158 244 824 or email us using the button below. 

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