By now, everyone is familiar with spam - those annoying messages from strangers that clog your inbox everyday. While a good amount of these unsolicited messages are harmless people looking to establish a web presence, some of them are out to cripple your computer with malware, or even worse, thieve your identity with scams.
One of the biggest threats on the web today is the abundance of phishing emails, a crime that has negatively impacted unknowing consumers and well known organizations alike.
Phishing Emails Pretend To Be A Legitimate Company
Phishing involves the sending of fraudulent messages that appear to be from a reputable business. These phishing emails typically make request that you update your account information to prevent termination. Some will actually claim that someone has already tampered into your account and request these details, purporting as if they are assisting in the matter.
To the uninformed eye, phishing emails look very genuine. Those sending a phishing email will use email addresses and active links that appear identical, finely designed logos, and even impersonate the names of known companies like PayPal, eBay, AOL, Earthlink, Wells Fargo, or Comerica Bank. Inside the phishing message, someone claiming to be a company representative will ask you to enter confidential details or click a link that supposedly redirects you to your account.
The information they request may be anything from the password to your bank account to a Social Security number. Giving up this information could not only lead to unauthorized withdrawal of your funds, but a full blown case of identity theft.
It’s rather ironic that phishing emails use social engineering to lure their victims into financial jeopardy. They prey on your fears of being victimized by fraud, hoping you’ll be alarmed and fall into their web of deceit. If everything looks good on the surface, the threat of having an important account compromised is enough for some to hand over almost anything.
Anti-phishing Email Tips
Below we have provided a few tips that will help you to avoid phishing emails:
• Beware of email headers; they can be easily forged.
• Do not click anything in an email message. Whether it’s clicking a link or filling out a form, this is something you want to avoid. Responding with sensitive details to an unsolicited message could have your confidential information circulating on the black market of phishers and malware coders.
• If the email appears concerning, conduct some investigating. If the message is sent by an institution that you do business with, contacting them about the matter is a good idea. You can report the phishing email to them as well. This is an easy way to determine if someone is attempting to bait you with an phishing email. In most instances, a legitimate company will never ask you to submit such personal information via email - this is the ultimate red flag.
We all must be aware of phishing emails, as they have the ability to inflict damage from different angles. The company stands to lose just as much as the consumer being asked to provide the username and password to their PayPal account. The best protection against this crime is prevention. You can begin by educating yourself with programs such as the APWG (Anti-Phishing Working Group) and the Phish Report Network.