How Can You Detect A Phishing Scam And 10 ways to avoid phishing scams

A phishing attack is a type of social engineering attack in which cyber-criminals try to trick individuals by crafting and sending maliciously crafted emails. Phishing emails look like legitimate messages coming from an authentic sender or source. The primary aim of phishing attacks is to get confidential or sensitive information and account credentials of their targets so that they could use the stolen data for nefarious purposes and unlawful gains. As a result, these phishing emails might ask you to reveal your account data, credit card details, or other information like user credentials. Most of the time, by creating a sense of urgency, the attackers try to entice the target users into opening an attachment or clicking a URL in the email, which, once clicked, can infect their systems with malware or virus.

Phishing poses a significant threat to businesses everywhere, and you are in as much risk as any other individual or organization. Thus, you should know how to spot the phishing emails to avoid falling into the traps.

Sender’s Name And Other Details

Phishers usually impersonate a well-known brand or person. Since they cannot use the same credentials in most cases, they create email addresses similar, but with small variations, to those of the brands they are imitating. Whenever you receive any uninitiated email, be at full-alert. You can find information about most organizations, including their contact details, online. Verify that the sender’s name and other information are correct. If you cannot find such information about the senders or their alleged enterprise, that should serve as a red flag. You can also try calling the organization the email claims to represent and confirm it.

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Unrecognized Links

Many phishing emails are harmless as long as you don’t let them take you where they want you to go. Phishers typically have bogus websites that will try to collect your confidential data and login credentials to important accounts. The emails will contain links that will take you to these sites. For example, a phishing email has a link to a website that can easily pass as that of your bank or some other reputed organization. If you visit these websites, you will find that they look and feel the same as the original websites – even the login page is the same. But whatever you enter on the forms – your login ID and passwords, etc. – only there for the phishers to collect.

So, how will you prevent phishing from happening? The only foolproof way is to not click on those links or open the attachment in it. If you want to confirm something that the email claims, do so by visiting the official websites by typing the URL in your browser or by sending inquiry to the official email address. Never follow up on things by following the links given in emails.


Poor Grammar Or Common Spelling Mistakes

It does not happen so often nowadays with phishing emails, but still, if you receive an email full of errors like misspelling or grammar issues, take it as a scam-marker. Corporate communication departments will never send you emails full of mistakes. Also, be aware of generic greetings such as ‘Dear Member’ or ‘Dear Customer’ as legit companies always use your name.

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Requiring Urgent Action From User’s End

A subject line like, ‘Take action now, or your account will be suspended,’ is an intimidating tactic which is becoming more common these days with phishing emails. These cybercriminals take advantage of your anxiety to secure your personal or financial information. Call the financial institution or the relevant authorities immediately to find out the truth when something doesn’t seem right. If you’re an employee of an organization, immediately report it to your CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) or the relevant department.


The Top 10 Tips To Know About Phishing Scams

For deploying effective countermeasure against phishing, it’s not enough to only identify the phishing emails. Take a look at the following tried and tested measures that you can use when dealing with such emails and attempts.

1. Learn About Phishing Techniques

Phishers develop and come up with phishing scams every day. If you are not updated with the new phishing technique, then you have a higher chance of becoming a victim of one. Refresh your awareness very often about new phishing scams. Updated and up-to-date knowledge will help in avoiding being surprised by a new scam and lowering the risk of falling prey to one. In case you are an IT administrator, you can use security awareness training and simulated phishing attacks to keep the security of the organization updated.

2. Think Twice Before Following An Unknown Link

Clicking on links when you are on a trusted site is not going to be a problem. However, clicking on links that appear in instant messages and random emails isn’t a smart move. In case you receive a suspicious link, hover over the link to check if it is leading where it should lead. If it is a phishing email, it might claim to have come from a legitimate source, and you are going to be directed to a website that appears like a real one. When you are in doubt, you should go to the official website directly by entering the URL in the browser yourself instead of clicking on the unknown link.

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3. Verify Security of the Site

Online transactions have become pretty standard. As long as you are on a secure website, it is fine. However, to avoid running into any trouble, you should verify the security of the sites you visit. Check if the URL of the website starts with https and has a lock symbol close to the address bar. You should also check for the security certificate. Learn to take heed of your system security. When it warns you of a website being unsecured or that it might contain some malicious files, avoid opening them. Do not download files from any suspicious website or email.

At times, search engines may also display phishing webpages offering low-cost products or offers that sound too good to be true. Be wary when you do transactions or enter your credentials on such sites; they are usually, as we’ve said, too good to be true.

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4. Use an Anti-Phishing Toolbar

You can use an anti-phishing toolbar customized for your requirements with internet browsers. These toolbars will run a quick check on the websites you pay a visit to and compare them to a list of phishing sites. When the tool detects one, it will notify you. These tools are available for free and offer more than one layer of protection against these types of scams.

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5. Check Your Online Accounts Regularly

When you’re not checking your online accounts for a long time, it may encourage others to have a merry time with them. Even if you do not have to, you should check your online accounts from time to time. If there’s anything wrong, this precaution will enable you to notice it, hopefully, before it’s too late. Also, make sure that you change your passwords frequently. Take a look at your bank statements daily to prevent credit card and bank phishing scams. Check each entry carefully to make sure there aren’t any fraudulent transactions.

6. Keep the Browser Updated

All popular browsers release security updates from time to time. These are mainly in response to loopholes in the security which are taken advantage of by phishing scammers and hackers. When you receive a message about updating your browser, you should not ignore it. Instead, download and install the update as soon as you possibly can.

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7. Be Careful of Pop-Ups

Pop-up windows often pose as the legitimate component of a particular website. However, a majority of these are phishing attempts. Many browsers will give you the option to block the pop-ups. You can also typically customize the settings to identify from which websites you want to receive a pop-up. In case of a pop-up slipping through, avoid clicking on the ‘Cancel’ button within the pop-up window. There’s no such thing as ethics in the phishing world, and even the ‘Cancel’ button can still lead to the phishing site. It is better and safer to click on the ‘X’ button on the upper right corner of the pop-up window.

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8. Use Advanced (Next-Gen) Firewalls

You can prevent breaches automatically and keep the business moving by using an advanced (next generation) firewall. This can serve as a buffer between you, the computer, and the intruders. Make sure that you use a network as well as a desktop firewall. When you use these software and hardware firewalls together, they will reduce the odds of hackers getting into your system or your computer, phishing for your sensitive information.

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9. Avoid Giving Out Personal Information

A general rule of thumb is not to give out personal and financial information over the internet. When you have to do so, make sure that your data is going to the right place. If you are in doubt about any such requests, make it a habit to visit the official website or call the organization.

Avoid sending emails containing any sensitive information as far as possible. There may be many times when you have to do so; so, learn about data encryption, and use it.

10. Use Antivirus Software

Using antivirus software is one of the best ways to go about protecting yourself and your organization from phishing emails and scams. The software come with special signatures which will guard you against known technology loopholes and workarounds. You only need to ensure that you keep the software updated all the time. Software providers update and add new patches from time to time to keep up with the newly developed scams. Antivirus software is going to scan every file you receive through the internet and thus, keep your system from being damaged or infected with phishing programs.

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Phishing is more common than you know, and there’s a high chance that phishers are sending you at least a couple of phishing emails every day. You have to keep your eyes open all the time to spot these. Use all the above-given techniques to stay away from such scams. Being vigilant will prove to be a strong defense.

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