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Phishing Emails and You

By The Shazam Network

When it comes to email, we’ve all come across a phishing email that appeared to be a legitimate email.

Phishers take advantage of the fact that it’s difficult to know with absolute certainty whom you’re communicating with via email. They use this uncertainty to pose as legitimate businesses, organizations or individuals and gain our trust, which they can leverage to convince us to willingly give up information or click on malicious links or attachments.

Be aware of phishing scams
First and foremost, you should use a spam filter (this service should be provided by your email provider), keep all of your systems patched and keep your anti-virus software up to date.

The second line of defense against phishing is you. If you’re vigilant and watch for telltale signs of a phishing email, you can minimize your risk of falling for one.

Telltale signs of a potential phishing email or message include:

  • Messages from companies you don’t have accounts with
  • Spelling mistakes
  • Messages from the wrong email address (for example: info@yourbank.fakewebsite.com instead of info@yourbank.com)
  • Generic greetings (for example: “Dear user” instead of your name)
  • Unexpected messages with a sense of urgency, designed to prompt you to respond quickly without checking the facts
  • Attachments with names such as “Resume” or “Unpaid Invoice”

Here are some scenarios you may encounter:

  • An email appearing to be from the “fraud department” of a well-known company that asks you to verify your information because they suspect you may be a victim of identity theft.
  • An email that references a current event, such as a major data breach, with a malicious link to set up “free credit reporting.”
  • An email claiming to be from a state lottery commission that requests your banking information to deposit the “winnings” into your account.
  • An email with a link asking you to provide your login credentials for a website from which you receive legitimate services, such as a bank, credit card company or your employer.
  • A text message that asks you to call a telephone number to confirm a “suspicious purchase” on your credit card. When you call, the operator will know your name and account information and ask you to confirm your ATM card PIN (this is a form of smishing).

Recommendations

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, text messages and telephone calls. Use discretion when providing information to unsolicited callers and never provide sensitive personal information via email.
  • If you want to verify a suspicious email, contact the organization directly with a known telephone number. Don’t call the number provided in the email. Or, have the company send you something through U.S. mail (which scammers won’t do).
  • Only open an email attachment if you’re expecting it and know what it contains. Be cautious about container files, such as .zip files, as malicious content could be packed inside.
  • Visit websites by typing the Web address into your browser’s address bar. Don’t follow links embedded in an unsolicited email.
  • Use discretion when posting personal information on social media. This information is a treasure-trove to spear phishers who will use it to feign trustworthiness.
  • Keep all of your software patched and up to date. On your home computer, have the auto-update feature enabled.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date to detect and disable malicious programs, such as spyware or backdoor Trojans, which may be included in phishing emails.

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