Avoid the Phishing Bait! How to Spot and Stop Attacks

Two people in boats. One is a man who is fishing. The other is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and a fedora and is phishing.

Two people in boats. One is a man who is fishing. The other is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and a fedora and is phishing.

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Phishing uses deceptive emails, websites, and messages to trick unsuspecting internet users into giving up sensitive information. But with vigilance and precautions, you can protect yourself!

Watch for Manipulation Tactics

Phishers may provoke emotional responses by evoking urgency, threatening account suspension, or other psychological tricks. But awareness of these methods can help you identify deceit. Phishers use various psychological tricks and persuasive tactics to manipulate you, including:

  • Creating a sense of urgency to act fast
  • Threatening negative consequences like account suspension
  • Preying on fear of missing out on deals or events
  • Establishing authority by pretending to be from reputable companies
  • Building rapport and familiarity by using your name and personal info

Being aware of these sneaky persuasion methods can help you identify deceitful communications.

Spot Red Flags

Poor spelling/grammar, odd links, suspicious domain names, and requests for info like passwords are clear phishing indicators. Enabling email spam filters can automatically detect some phishing content. Keep an eye out for these common red flags that signal a phishing attempt:

  • Poor spelling, grammar, or obviously fake names
  • Generic greetings like “Dear user” instead of your name
  • Suspicious or odd links and domain names
  • Requests for sensitive info like passwords or SSN
  • Threats of dire consequences for not acting quickly
  • Spoofed email addresses to mimic legitimate companies

The more phishing flags you can spot, the better you’ll be at identifying scams. Here are some tips for identifying spoofed email addresses and suspicious links/domains in phishing emails.

For spoofed email addresses:

  • Look closely at the sender’s full email address, not just the display name. Scammers often alter one letter.
  • Hover over the address to preview the actual linked email address.
  • Check if the domain matches the company’s legitimate website domain.

Examples of spoofed emails:

  • Email claims to be from Apple but address is app1e[.]com@email[.]com
  • Display name says Bank of America but address is service@bankofamerica[.]co

For suspicious links and domains:

  • Hover over any links to preview the actual URL destination.
  • Watch for odd domains like .info, .in, .co instead of .com.
  • Check for spelling errors or substitutions in the domain.
  • Be wary of overly long or complex URLs.

Examples of suspicious domains:

  • Link says google[.]com but hovers to googie[.]com
  • Link says it goes to paypal[.]com but really goes to paypa1[.]com
  • Addresses contain extra subdomains like account[.]services[.]paypal[.]com

Staying alert to fakes and checking sender addresses/links carefully will protect you from phishing scams.

Know Common Phishing Topics

Scammers pose as banks, social networks, merchants, and other sources. Keeping up-to-date on the latest phishing trends prepares you to recognize suspicious scenarios.

Verify Sender Information

Never use contact information provided within a suspicious email. Phishers often include fake phone numbers and links to mimic legitimate companies. To confirm an email is authentic:

  • Navigate directly to the company’s official website
  • Search for their listed contact info or customer support phone number
  • Call and ask if they contacted you regarding any issue described in the email

Taking the extra step to independently look up and verify the sender’s information can reveal whether an email is a phishing scam. Trusting details within an email to resolve a supposed account issue or request could lead you right into the phisher’s trap.

Stay Informed Against Phishing Ploys

Your first defense against phishing is vigilance. Subscribing to consumer security newsletters arms you with real-world tips to avoid the latest tricks and keep your data safe. Subscribing to my newsletter keeps you up to date on the latest tips I can bring you!

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