Research shows that over 3.4 billion fake emails are sent every day. These emails are sent by hackers and cybercriminals to “phish” for information.
So, what is email phishing?
Phishing is the process where cybercriminals pretend to be someone you know and try to gain your trust to find out personal details like passwords, bank account numbers, and so on in an attempt to steal your identity or extort money.
There’s never any guarantee that your email account will be safe from phishing and hackers. This is why it becomes extremely important for you to learn how to tell if an email is real in the event you experience a phishing attempt.
These ten tips will show you how to spot a phishing email and protect yourself against hackers:
1) Go back on your emailing history
In the deluge of personal and work emails that we get each day, it is sometimes easy to forget that we’ve started a conversation with someone. So, when you receive an email from a stranger, you may not think twice before responding. But this is how phishing attempts start.
Before replying to anyone you don’t know, go back to your email history and find out if you’ve initiated the conversation with them or not.
2) Get in touch with the sender when you can
One of the most common phishing techniques that cybercriminals use is to pretend to be a Government agency or an insurance company. They’ll send you fake messages that you’ve not filed your documents or not paid your premiums.
Before panicking and sharing your account details with them, check your documentation and filing. Call up the agencies and find out if they’ve sent the email to you.
3) Check what their display name says
The email display name is one of the best ways to know if the sender of an email is a legitimate company/person or not.
If the display name contains a strange domain name, which you’ve never received any emails from before, it’s best not to reply to such emails. Additionally, verify if the display name and the name of the sender in the signature are the same. If they’re not, it’s probably a fake email.
4) Identify the sentiments behind the subject line
Email senders use the subject line to highlight their emails and get receivers to respond. Typically, subject lines are either calm (when asking for information), or they’re urgent (when announcing an offer).
But, if you see a subject line that looks threatening or is very pushy, then it may be a sign of a phishing attempt. Hackers try to get control over people by using fear.
5) Look at the salutation they use
These days, personalization has become the key to successfully engaging with and selling to customers. So, every company will use your name, reference your purchase/web visit history when emailing you.
If the email you receive has a generic salutation (that is, Dear sir/madam or Valued Customer instead of Hi Betty), then that could be indicative of a stranger trying his/her luck with you.
The more generic the email is, the more likely that it may be a phishing attempt.
6) Check the email content for “unusual” requests
No company ever requests its customers to share account passwords, passport/license details, or bank statements to them via email. But, if the sender of your email has asked for account details & passwords, or worse, demanded that you send across some money to them, then know that it is certainly a phishing attempt.
7) Read through the email body for oddities
Companies strive to be professional and error-free when communicating with customers. Spelling & grammar errors will certainly not be present in professional emails.
If you notice that the email you’ve received reads very juvenile, has S&G errors, or looks poorly-drafted, it is an indication that something isn’t right.
Or, if the email sender claims to have got your email address from a person you barely know or haven’t communicated with in years, then that too is an indication that something’s amiss.
8) Watch out for suspicious external links
Some emails contain links that the receiver of the mail must click on, to perform a particular action. For example, the email says that if you click on a link, you’ll unlock a surprise gift.
Don’t ever click on and open such external links. They could lead to spyware being downloaded into your system, which transfers all your data to a hacker’s system.
Even if the salutation, subject line, and email body seem professional, read through the link URL carefully. If you see a mismatched URL, that is, a URL that seems very different from the company/domain name, don’t click on it.
9) See if there are any attachments that look strange
According to a study, 85% of all malicious attachments, that is, email attachments that contain spyware or ransomware, have extensions like .DOC, .PDF, .ZIP, .XLS, or .7Z. It’s important to be wary of all attachments and download only those which are absolutely necessary.
If the email tries to push you to download the attachment, it’s better that you don’t. It could be a hacking/phishing attempt, and you may end up opening an email virus.
10) Check the email signature
The email signature is a great place to learn more about the sender. But if the email signature is absent, only half-written without the right name or contact details, contains a varying spelling of a well-known company/brand and just seems different from regular digital signatures, it could be an indication that the mail is fraudulent.
Protect yourself from fraud and maintain email privacy with disposable email addresses
The unfortunate truth is that it’s very easy to succumb to a phishing attempt, no matter how careful we are.
To ensure that you are always secure against phishing and hacking attempts, use multiple email addresses instead of a single one.
Multiple email addresses act as a smokescreen for your real email address. They confuse hackers and cybercriminals and throw them off when they’re trying to drive you into a corner.
NullBox is a cutting-edge email forwarding service that provides disposable email addresses at very budget-friendly prices. These email addresses can be used in lieu of your original email address, thereby protecting your online accounts, financial documents, and personal information. They are perfect to create email for spam mails.
NullBox’s disposable email addresses are protected using PGP encryption and decryption software, ensuring that your email communications remain safe from unauthorized people. The addresses can be extremely helpful when you’re signing up for a service that shares customer data with third-parties, who may compromise your safety. You can anonymously enjoy the web while safeguarding your online presence.