Phishing scams have become increasingly popular as technology becomes more readily available. All over the world, internet users are targeted by companies and individuals who seek to gain access to their identity and financial information via unsavory methods. Although firewalls and SSLs can help protect your information from hackers and other such cyberthreats, they won’t do much to help if you fall for email or website scams. Being able to identify these scams can help you avoid them, protecting you, your information, and your company.
What are Phishing Scams?
A phishing scam is a type of cyberthreat that attempts to obtain financial and secure information about someone over the internet. The most common type of scam is through email, where phishers will use urgent and scary situations to try and trick someone into giving out their information. This often includes a link to a fake website that is designed to look identical to an actual site that the user visits. An example would be an email that appears to come from Amazon, claiming that the account has been locked and orders won’t be put through unless the user logs in and rectifies the issue. But as soon as the user logs in, the scammers have their account information and can cause serious issues before the issue is even identified.
Warning Sign One: The Fake Address
It’s fairly easy for someone to create a random email address account and send out hundreds of emails a day. Thankfully, many companies these days use their own email servers, allowing them to have special addresses that are related to their company. For example, an email from Amazon will have an email address that ends in @amazon.com (or some slight variation such as @customerservice.amazon.com). Checking the email address of the potential scam is one of the quickest ways to check if it’s real or not. No one outside of employees for Amazon can make an @amazon.com email, and the same is true for other companies. Many email services these days list the email address after the name of the sender. If you don’t see one, you can click on the expansion options (usually an ellipsis near the top right of the email) and choose to see all the information from the sender. If you see an address that ends in @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com or any other common address ending, it’s likely a scam.
The only caveat to this rule is for smaller companies. A small-scale company, or one-person operation is less likely to have its own email server and will be operating from those regular emails. In this case, be sure to double-check that the email you received matches the address of other emails. If there is a discrepancy, email the address you know is safe and ask if they sent the email you received. If they didn’t, then it’s a scam.
Warning Sign Two: Sense of Urgency
More often than not, you get a fair amount of warning before things take a turn for the worse. If your account is genuinely under threat of being shut down, you’ll receive at least one if not more emails indicating there’s a problem with the account. If the first email you receive is about how the account is already shut down or something similar, it’s highly suspicious. Scammers want to create that sense of urgency in you because they want you to feel scared enough not to pay attention. They work hard to make their email look official so you don’t take the time to check the address or confirm the website before acting. If you’re reading an email and immediately get a sense of panic or dread, take a deep breath before you continue. Double-check that the email is legitimate before continuing. If you aren’t sure, you can email or call the customer service department of the company to check. Just make sure you go to their site directly and find the accurate number or email, as the scammer will include fake contact information in the email.
Warning Sign Three: Tone and Grammar
When a company sends out an email, they tend to follow a similar pattern and style. Any email that breaks away from this pattern is likely not from the company itself. The greeting may be off, for example, using your full name instead of just your first name as the normal company does. Or their overall style may be too formal or informal, given the overall vibe of the business. If you are uncertain whether an email is accurate or not, compare it to others you’ve received from that company. If the style seems off, it could be a scam.
Scammers are also less likely to catch spelling and grammar mistakes in their emails. Professional companies work hard to ensure that the information they send out to clients and customers is accurate and grammatically correct. They often have an entire department devoted to checking spelling and grammar. If you receive an email that has a lot of errors in it, or even just a few, take a second to confirm that the account is legitimate before continuing. Again, smaller companies may not have the same resources bigger companies do, but they’re still going to do their best to ensure their emails are properly drafted.
Phishing scams are a dangerous type of cyberthreat that preys on the panic of customers and business owners. Falling for a scam leaves you with a giant mess to clean up — one that could take weeks or even months to properly resolve. If you’re online, you want to keep yourself safe. When you host with Cirrus Hosting, we help provide additional security measures to protect you and your customers from all kinds of cyberthreats. We’ll provide you with the information you need to identify and avoid phishing scams while keeping your accounts safe from hacking attempts. Call us today at 1-877-624-7787 or browse our packages online to see how we can help protect your company.