How to Identify Phishing Emails

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If you keep up to date on antivirus news and reviews, then you’ve probably heard about phishing schemes. They are incredibly dangerous and sophisticated scams designed to trick users into giving up their personal information – like credit card data and Social Security numbers – to strangers over the internet.

If you fall for a phishing scam, you’re in big trouble. The person who stole it could sell your personal data to marketing agencies, who will then spam you with phone calls, emails, and junk mail. Or worse, your identity could be stolen, your bank accounts could be drained, and your credit cards maxed out.

So what is a phishing scam? And how do you identify it? Let’s find out.

Many phishing scams are spread through email. The email will appear to be an official letter from a trusted organization, like your bank or the government. It will often tell you about an urgent matter that requires your immediate attention. The email will then ask you to click on a link, which will then take you to a trusted a website.

However, instead of taking you to an official government website, or your bank’s login page, you’ll be redirected to a malicious website that is disguised as an official webpage. In many cases, your banking website and a fake phishing website may be indistinguishable from one another. Once you enter your information, you won’t see your bank account information. Instead, your data will be sent directly to the phisher.

How do you spot a phishing scheme before it’s too late?

Spotting a phishing scheme can be difficult, and thousands of people fall prey to these tricks every day. However, the best way to defend yourself is to think critically about every link you click on. Is the link coming from a trusted source? Is it strange for somebody to be sending me this link on Facebook? Is this link asking me to enter sensitive personal information?

In most cases, your bank won’t email you asking you to divulge personal information, and if you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to call the bank, or whatever organization the phishing email is trying to replicate.

You should also look at the URL before entering any information online. Many phishing websites will be cleverly disguised as another URL. For example, instead of taking you to CoolBank.com, a phishing email will send you to TheCoolBank.com or something similar. Always double check the URL that you’re working with, and if it looks suspicious, then do not enter your information.

While it’s important to proactively defend your computer with smart browsing, there is no replacement for good antivirus software. Some of today’s leading antivirus scanners will prevent you from travelling to malicious phishing websites and will warn you when you receive a suspicious email in your inbox. While very few antivirus programs can catch 100% of all phishing threats, they still provide decent protection. By keeping your antivirus software up to date and thinking critically while using the internet, you can significantly reduce your chances of falling victim to a phishing scheme.

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