How To Identify Phishing Emails

Identifying A Phishing Email May Blog 3

Your business faces a variety of cyberattacks everyday, and it’s your cybersecurity that shields you from most of them. However, some cyberthreats are capable of sneaking past your defenses, like phishing scams. Did you know it’s believed the first phishing email was sent in the mid-1990s? Ever since then, phishing attacks have gotten worse by the year.

At this point, phishing has become so common that you can expect to see a scam at least a few times a month. Although your filters do a pretty good job at blocking phishing emails from your inbox, there always seems to be a handful that manage to slither their way through. That’s why, in addition to setting up your inbox filters, you should learn how to identify phishing scams to lower your chances of becoming a victim.

How To Identify Phishing

Phishing is a social engineering tactic used to trick victims into sharing sensitive information. These attacks are primarily carried out through emails. Since the goal of a phishing attack is to deceive the recipient, phishing emails are made to look as legitimate as possible. This focus on legitimacy heightens the dangers of phishing

Knowing how to determine phishing emails can be difficult. Fortunately, there are telltale signs of a phishing email you can look out for. To help you build awareness, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common indicators you should be aware of.

Urgent Calls To Action

Emails can range from simple greetings to important notices. Knowing that you are more likely to react to serious messages, a lot of phishing scams tend to veer toward important notices. Scams that use this tactic ask you to act quickly on something or something bad may happen soon.

If you run into an email requesting urgent action followed by a threat of a negative consequence, you may want to think twice before doing what’s requested. It could lead you into a trap that downloads a virus to your computer. This is one of the most tried and true tactics of phishing emails. The goal is to rush you into taking action before you get hit with the negative consequence, so there’s not enough time for you to study the email for inconsistencies.

A few examples of urgent calls to action include messages about compromised credit cards, account deactivation notices, and IT support requests. In real emergencies, like a compromised credit card, the company won’t ask you to follow a link or reply back with your sensitive information. More often than not, they’ll recommend that you call them directly.

Spelling and Grammar Errors

One of the easiest ways to identify phishing is to look for spelling and grammatical mistakes. When a legitimate company sends an email to a partner or client, they want to make sure the message looks as professional as possible. Typos and grammatical errors are the polar opposite of a professional appearance. 

To avoid errors, most businesses review messages with a spell-checking tool before sending. A cybercriminal, on the other hand, is only focused on tricking you and won’t care if the email has a few mistakes. If you see any obvious spelling or grammatical errors in your message, you may want your IT department to check it out.

Generic or Poorly Written Content

Another way to identify phishing is to review the body of the message. Hackers don’t really care about what’s in the message; they’re more focused on getting you to act. This is why a lot of phishing scams often have spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and bad formatting. 

Generic copy is also a warning sign to watch out for. For example, most phishing attacks use generic greetings such as “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear Customer.” A real company, on most occasions, uses your actual name in the greeting. More hastily crafted messages may even skip the salutation altogether.

Email Address Inconsistencies

Don’t forget to take a look at the sender’s email address. Does the domain match the name of the company the message claims to be sent from? Is the name in the address different from the one used in the message? Are there spelling mistakes? For example, a legitimate email from Microsoft would have Microsoft in the domain (e.g. xxxx@microsoft.com) and not something like Gmail.

Suspicious Attachments

Back in the earlier days of the internet, it was common for people to send emails with attachments to their coworkers or partners. However, the world of business has evolved a lot since then. With the emergence of technologies like Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and more, the way we share files has changed.

These days, if someone wants to send you something, they’re likely to do it through other means instead of email. However, there are some people who still attach files to emails. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to be suspicious of any email attachment. It also helps to look out for unfamiliar extensions or ones commonly associated with malware, like .zip, .exe, and .scr.

Make Identifying Phishing Easy With The Millennium Group

The Millennium Group is an industry-leading managed services provider that’s dedicated to meeting all of your IT needs. We offer a wide variety of cybersecurity solutions. When you partner with us, we can implement security measures capable of identifying phishing and removing the threat from your system. Our goal is to make sure you can rest easy knowing your network is safe.

Contact us today to learn more.