If you are a regular email user, you will almost certainly have received messages from strangers offering amazing opportunities in exchange for you proving them with personal information. It is easy to dismiss most emails like this because they are obviously just spam. There are also other emails that contain more sophisticated content, and these can be far more convincing. Even savvy internet users have been caught out by these phishing scams.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a word that is used to describe certain types of fraudulent emails. The usual aim of these scams is to catch you off-guard, and to trick you into providing your personal details. The criminals organising these scam emails will go to great lengths to convince you that it is in your interest to provide this information.
The way that phishing scams often work is that you will receive an email from something like your online banking service. This message will often be designed to look exactly like what you would receive from your bank – for example, it will have the same logo and layout. The sender details might also appear to show that it is from this institution. You will be given an urgent reason to log into your account and there will be a link in the email for you to do this. They might claim that your account has been suspended or that you have been hacked. In a panic, you will click on this link, and it will appear as if you have reached the login area for your bank. In fact, what you are really doing is given these criminals your bank details.
Common Types of Phishing Attack
A fake urgent email from the bank is probably the most common type of phishing attack, but there are also other types including:
- You may receive an email that tricks you into visiting a website where you will be asked to download some malicious software.
- Emails asking you to activate your account for some website that you visit.
- 419 scams are where you will be offered huge sums of money (possibly millions of pounds), but first you will need to send them money in order to get the big payout.
- A variation of the 419 scam is an email that claims that you are the beneficiary of a large sum of money that someone has left to you in a will.
How to Avoid Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated but there are things that you can do to avoid them:
- Always check to make sure that the reply address is the same as the sender address. It is relatively easy to add a fake sender address, but the criminals need a real email address so you can contact them.
- Use your mouse to hover over any links, as this will reveal the address link you are being directed to. You want to make sure that the link is going to where it claims to be going.
- Always trust your intuition when it comes to strange emails. If something feels a bit dodgy, it probably is dodgy.
- Be on the lookout for any poor grammar or spelling in the message. Most of these scams are committed from countries where English is not the first language.
- If you get a convincing email claiming to be from your bank, it is best not to use the link in the email – just log in as normal if you are worried.
- It is best to not get into any type of dialogue with these criminals.
- Make sure that you delete any phishing emails so that you do not accidently click on the link later on.