Many people assume that most, if not all, of the emails they receive, are harmless. And for the most part, they are correct. Most companies use email as a tool for communicating with their customers and sharing information about upcoming sales.
However, not all of the email you receive is harmless; many users have a surprising amount of scam mail lurking in their inboxes. These scam emails are sent by cyber-attackers who want to obtain users’ personal data.
Some examples of this data can include:
- Personal information (name, address, date of birth, etc.)
- Banking information
- Credit card numbers
- Usernames and passwords
There are two main reasons why cyber-attackers want your data: to sell it to a third party or to use it for identity theft.
This process is commonly referred to as phishing, and it’s becoming a growing problem around the world.
In fact, experts have reported that phishing schemes swindled users for over $57 million in 2019.
Thankfully, there are several ways that you can avoid becoming a part of that statistic and protect yourself from online scammers — continue reading to find out more.
How Do Scam Emails Work?
Before you can learn how to avoid phishing scams, you need to understand how they work.
Simply put, a cyber-attacker attaches a form of malware to a fraudulent platform. The cyber-attacker links the platform to an email, which is altered to appear like it’s been sent from a well-known company.
The email will often state that there was an issue of some sort (shipping, payment, etc.) and that the user needs to deal with it immediately.
This email is then sent out to hundreds or thousands of users. When the users open the email, they are encouraged to click on the fraudulent link and type in their personal information. If the user does this, the cyber-attacker is granted access to their valuable personal data.
Download High-Quality Anti-Malware Software
Now that you know that fraudulent emails contain malware, the most obvious plan of defense would be to download antivirus software (also referred to as anti-malware software). Modern anti-malware programs can detect and block a diverse array of cyberthreats, including phishing scams.
Some premium anti-malware software can proactively detect and deal with phishing scams by preventing you from accessing compromised sites. This means that your software will stop you from entering the site if you click on a suspicious link.
You should download anti-malware on all of the devices that you use for email. This includes your:
Doing this will ensure that your data is safe and sound, no matter what device you’re using.
Learn How to Spot the Signs
Many people have difficulty differentiating legitimate emails from their fraudulent counterparts. This is primarily because these emails are carefully crafted to look authentic. However, with a little guidance, anyone can learn how to identify a phishing scam.
Legitimate Companies Will Not Ask for Your Info Over Email
If a company ever asks you to share sensitive information directly through email, be sure to send their message right to the trash bin. Legitimate companies understand that their customers don’t feel comfortable sharing this information.
Real Companies Will Address You by Name
If you ever open an email and the first line reads, “To whom it may concern,” or “Dear valued customer,” then you should take that as a huge red flag.
Most companies will address their customers by their name and encourage share any sensitive information via phone.
Suspicious Domain Names Are a Bad Sign
Whenever you receive a suspicious email, you should take the time to check out the sender’s domain name. A real company email address shouldn’t have any unusual inconsistencies, such as:
However, it is worth noting that some smaller companies will often use third-party email providers, which may cause some inconsistencies in their email domains.
Spelling and Grammar Mistakes Are a Red Flag
Most large companies will often outsource their email advertisements to third-party copywriters and marketers. This ensures that the content is well-written and error-free.
With this in mind, you can see why obvious spelling and grammar mistakes can be seen as a red flag. Many of these cyber-attackers live in countries where English isn’t the native language, such as Nigeria. This can make it challenging for the cyber-attackers to craft fluent, error-free emails.
Whether you’ve fallen victim to a phishing scam in the past or would like to protect your data from being compromised in the future, you can protect yourself by using the tips mentioned above.