How to Spot Phishing Emails: 4 Tips

It’s a truth cybercriminals bank on. When we get an email from a person or organization we think we recognize, most of us open it without a second thought. So how can we spot a trick? See 4 quick ways…

And in the era of widespread phishing, that’s a huge mistake. By now, you’ve probably received warnings about phishing. How it’s far more sophisticated than it was in the old “Nigerian prince” days, and how even experts can be taken in. 

The best way to know
Analysts say the best clues in recognizing today’s attacks—including highly targeted spearphishing and business email compromise endeavors—is to think clearly about what response the message is trying to elicit. 

Some spotting tips: 

1. Move your cursor. This is one tech-focused tip that works most of the time. If you receive an email from your mother but it seems odd or sketchy, roll your cursor over mom’s email address. If the email is a phishing attack, the sender’s actual address will appear. 

2. Are you being rushed? Phishers seek to hurry victims into parting with info (or transferring funds) immediately, before they can think better of it. Any email that demands a response right this minute is suspect. 

3. Are you being intimidated? Fear is another factor used often in phishing attacks. Messages often claim to be from the IRS, law enforcement, or some sort of collection agency, with bogus threats that you’re in some sort of trouble. Never respond to such messages. If they have any hint of validity to them (for example, if you are embroiled in a tax dispute), call the appropriate phone number. 

4. Is the sender at a vastly different part of the company hierarchy? Business email compromise (BEC) scams may originate with a phony email, supposedly from your employer’s CFO or even CEO, urging you to handle a funds transfer. Always double-check such requests —in person or over the phone—before complying.

© National Security Institute, Inc.


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