How to Detect and Avoid Phishing Emails

The Internet has become an endless source of information, communication and opportunity and as technology advances, our ability to access the Internet is becoming faster and simpler each day. We can process transactions much faster, interact with anyone around the world and acquire the information we need in seconds.

Unfortunately, not everything on the Internet is for the benefit of humankind. As with most opportunities in life, there are many devious users that want to take advantage of that access provided by the Internet. Cyber criminals and online scammers are some of the most dangerous and most active threats to our online, financial and personal well-being.

They utilise techniques, such as phishing emails, to defraud unsuspecting companies and vulnerable individuals and make an easy score without leaving their desk. In order to help you recognise the tell-tale signs of a phishing email, here are six things you should look out for in your inbox.

Identify Obvious Grammatical Errors

One of the biggest signs of a scam email are frequent and obvious grammatical errors. There will be errors and inconsistencies, such as misspelling, incorrect punctuation, misplaced and misused words, wrong capitalisation and odd formatting. Beyond these, the emails will look cut-and-pasted with similar types of fonts, messaging styles and opportunities being offered. Look for these signs to help you identify obvious phishing schemes.

Assess the Subject Line

Subject lines of unknown emails should be a strong indicator of their authenticity and trustworthiness. If the subject line is poorly worded, nonsensical or too desperate (i.e., “YOU HAVE WON A NEW PHONE!”) then you should hit that delete button. These subject lines often contain a headline that promises some generic prize that you are not interested in, because these scammers send out the same phishing emails at random.

Check the Email’s Sender

One of the best things you can do to verify an unknown email is to check the sender. If the email is coming from someone or somewhere that you do not know, avoid opening it. The sender should have a traceable email that connects them to a legitimate company they are claiming to represent. Even when you do know the sender, if the subject line or language feels ‘fishy’, you should check with that person directly.

Identify When the Email was Sent

When you can, check what time the email was sent and where it is coming from. If it was sent in the late hours, from a foreign country or a place you do not recognise, you should not bother with it. Emails sent at strange times or from strange places are just not worth the risk of becoming victim to a phishing scam.

Check the Email’s URL

You should check the URL of any suspicious emails you receive. Usually, these URLs will lead directly to scam websites with lots of pop-ups, offers and spam to catch unsuspecting victims. Online scammers and cyber criminals will often target active social media users and frequent online shoppers, who may be quick to click on pop-ups.

Assess the Email Attachments

If you have gone through the previous steps and still decided to open the email, you are probably in the clear. However, just in case, you should check any attachments or links in the email and if anything seems out of place or unusual, do not open them and delete the email. Most email service providers will offer a warning when they detect risky or questionable attachments and you should listen to them!

Be Careful Online

With all of our online activity, personal and professional, we get so many emails every day. The possibility of phishing emails turning up in your inbox is not only likely, it is guaranteed. Just have a look at your spam folder. The fact is that we have the tools, technology and knowledge to avoid these scams, we just need to be careful when exploring all the opportunities provided to us by the Internet.

At MarisIT, we are committed to protecting South Africans and their businesses from the growing threat of fraud. We have a range of services and products to help you verify the authenticity of potential customers or business partners. For more information, contact MarisIT today.

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