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How to Spot a Phishing Email: The Ultimate Guide

published 9/30/2021

A whopping 91 percent of all data breaches are phishing cases, with the average cost of a data breach costing about $3.68 million. Phishing emails are one of the most common threats on the internet today. The worst part is that it's hard to tell a phishing email from a genuine one.

Now you might be thinking you know all you need to about phishing emails. We're sure you've come across a couple of them in your inbox. In fact, some are so obvious; a second-grader could spot them.

Knowing how to spot a phishing email is harder than most people think. These days people have come up with ingenious ways to dupe even the most cautious individuals. If you're not too careful, you might fall victim to these phishing scams.

In today's post, we'll be highlighting telltale signs that the email in your inbox is a phishing email.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is a type of cybercrime where scammers pose as legitimate companies and ask for login sensitive information from unsuspecting individuals.

While email phishing is the most popular type of phishing, telephone and text message phishing also exist. Scammers behind these phishing scams use the information to access victims' bank accounts or sensitive data.

Tips on How To Spot a Phishing Email

These days it's hard to tell a phishing email from a genuine one. However, here are a few tips to help you spot the former:

The Email Is in Your Spam Folder

It's hard for an email from one of your correspondents to land in your spam folder. So when an email from corporate checks as spam, it's probably a scam. Remember, only a tiny percentage of your emails land in your spam folder.

If any "serious" email can't get past your email provider's spam filter, it's probably a scam. Regardless of how legitimate it seems, don't open it.

The Email Comes From a Big Company Out of the Blues

Phishers disguise themselves as big brands to trick you into opening their emails. They'll pretend to be representatives from PayPal, Amazon, DHL, or even Google. However, they mostly have one or two things that make the email seem a little off.

Multi-million companies like Google or Amazon rarely make spelling or grammatical errors in their emails. They also never use a threatening tone when speaking to customers or subscribers. If you spot any of the following, the email is most likely a phishing scam.

The Email Is a Different Domain Email

Apart from checking the sender's name, hover your mouse over the 'from' address to check the sender's email address. Look for any numbers or suspicious characters in the sender's email. Scammers alter legit companies' email addresses slightly to make the email look tenable.

A genuine email address from PayPal should read [email protected]. An email from a scammer will look something like [email protected] The difference is hardly noticeable, so you better stay vigilant.

However, don't be too quick to dismiss any email whose domain doesn't match the company's website. Sometimes these companies use different domains to send their emails. Smaller companies may even use emails from third-party providers.

The Entire Email Is a Hyperlink

Some phishing scammers link the entire email to a website or a software download. Accidentally clicking on anywhere on the email sends you to a fake website or initiates a download. The website will be a replica of the original company's website.

The scammers hope you'll key in sensitive information like your account details on their fake website. Sometimes clicking on the email initiates a software download on your computer. This is likely phishing software or ransomware that they can use to extort you.

These scammers can use ransomware to hold your data, including personal files ransom until you pay them a ransom. Thankfully, with the advanced data recovery methods available today, you don't have to worry too much about losing your data.

If your cursor turns into a hand when you hover it over the email, don't click on it. This is a giant hyperlink that won't lead anywhere good. The best thing to do is close the email and report the sender to your email service provider.

The Email Sounds Rushed and Lacks Details

You receive an email from Amazon, but it sounds a bit rushed and lacks very crucial details. For instance, it doesn't mention your physical address. Also, the shipping number on the email doesn't match the one sent to you one week ago.

If this sounds like your email, it's probably a phishing scam. First off, genuine companies are very specific about their message. That way, they ensure their message hits home and isn't misconstrued as illegitimate.

Secondly, regardless of the urgency, genuine companies would never ask you to relay sensitive information via email. They understand that emails are not the safest means to convey sensitive information. What's more, genuine companies don't ask for passwords because they already have them.

The Email Has a Suspicious Attachment

Imagine this situation, you're at work, and you receive an out-of-the-blue email from PayPal. The weird part is that you barely use your Paypal account for anything. What's more, the email asks you to download an attachment on the email for more information.

This is obviously a phishing email because if it were really PayPal, they'd tell you all they need to on the email. Clicking on the attachment will likely initiate a download or redirect you to a suspicious URL. Either way, the result is almost always devastating, as mentioned above.

Be Wary of Phishing Emails

Now that you know how to spot a phishing email, it's on you to keep an eye out for these phishing scams. If you receive a phishing email, don't forget to report the sender to your email service provider. Check with your email provider to find out how to report a phishing email.

Some phishing emails go unnoticed, and if you fall victim to a phishing scam, you'll need to raise your guard. Contact us if you lose your data because of a phishing scam, and we'll recover all your data in a flash. If we can't get your data back, no one can.