What is Phishing Email?
A phishing email is any malicious email message that's sent by cyber criminals to obtain money or sensitive information. The term “phishing” is a spin on the word fishing, and it alludes to the fact that the authors of phishing emails often use fake email addresses, websites, and even security certificates to lure unsuspecting victims.
Modern phishing emails can be extremely convincing and difficult to recognize, so it’s absolutely paramount for all email users to learn how to spot a phishing email and how to prevent phishing attacks.
How to Prevent Phishing Attacks?
Phishing attacks have been around for several decades, and they have evolved dramatically over the years. Many tips on how to stop and prevent phishing attacks have become outdated, while other tips are still relevant to this day.
1. Be Wary of Unknown Senders
Whenever you receive a personal email from someone you don’t know, be extremely cautious. Phishers sometimes like to impersonate legitimate companies and people to steal login credentials and other personal information, but they can succeed only when they successfully lure you in and make you do what they want you to do.
If you suddenly receive a message asking you for personal information from someone you don’t know, don’t hesitate to give the person a call or run a reverse email search before replying. IT administrators sometimes like to simulate phishing attacks because they want to teach employees that email addresses can be faked, and you don’t want to label yourself as someone who blindly trusts emails from unknown senders.
2. Look for Bad Grammar and Improper Spelling
Long gone are the days of Nigerian princes asking for small loans in exchange for millions of dollars, but phishing emails with bad grammar and improper spelling are still very common. You may even stumble upon a phishing email written in completely broken English that’s below the level of leading machine translation tools.
That said, most grammar and spelling mistakes are quite subtle and sometimes even intentional. For example, a phisher may decide to write “appIe” (capital i) instead of “apple” (lowercase L) to register a domain name that’s visually indistinguishable from the real domain name.
3. Avoid Suspicious Attachments
Legitimate organizations seldom send emails with attachments. Phishers, on the other hand, send email attachments all the time. In one Apple phishing email scam, cyber criminals send fake Apple invoices that mirror the look of real Apple invoices. Sometimes, the invoices are simply vessels used to distribute malware. Other times, the invoices contain links that lead to a fraudulent website that looks just like the genuine Apple website.
The fake website typically asks for login credentials, which is how the scammers are able to steal accounts belonging to Apple users.
4. Learn to Recognize Common Types of Phishing Scams
There are at least six common phishing attacks that you should learn to recognize:
- The first one is deceptive phishing, and its objective is to trick you into providing personal information by sending you messages that pretend to come from recognized sources (email spoofing).
- Next is spear phishing, which is a more sophisticated version of deceptive phishing that targets specific email users with personalized emails, phone calls, and other methods.
- Companies become the victims of a type of phishing scam called CEO fraud, with phishers impersonating executives and abusing their email accounts to authorize fraudulent wire transfers.
- When phishers hijack a website’s domain name and use it to redirect visitors to an imposter site, we talk about pharming.
- Dropbox phishing is when realistic emails claiming to come from Dropbox, a file hosting service designed to reduce busywork-so you can focus on the things that matter, request the user to click through to secure their account or download a shared document.
- Finally, there’s Google Docs phishing, which is essentially the same as Dropbox phishing expect that the cyber criminal’s service of choice is Google Drive instead of Dropbox. If you’re not sure whether you’ve received a Google phishing email or not, don’t hesitate to contact Google directly and ask for help.
Looking for more information about email security to keep your company messages safe and protected? Check out our article about email security best practices; follow our guide on how to send a secure email in Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and other private email providers.
5. Keep Your Inbox Clean and Organized
Phishing emails wouldn’t be as effective as they are if people kept their inboxes clean and organized. Unfortunately, most people receive so many messages every single day that it’s virtually impossible to keep up with them without the help of bulk email organizer like Clean Email.
Put an End to Email Phishing with Clean Email
Clean Email is a bulk email cleaner that can protect you from spam with its automation features, including Auto Clean and Unsubscriber. The former lets you automatically apply various actions to new emails just by checking a single checkbox. All automation rules appear in a convenient dashboard that lets you manage them with ease.
Unsubscriber is perfect for unsubscribing from unwanted marketing emails, which may actually be phishing emails in disguise. Even if the sender does not provide an option to unsubscribe, Clean Email will make sure that unwanted emails won't stay in your inbox and bring your productivity to a screeching stop.
Phishing attacks continue to evolve, becoming more personalized and more convincing. It is truly scary how many types of phishing attacks exist and how easy it is to get caught in such a dangerous fraud. Fortunately, Privacy Guard, by Clean Email, acts as a safety net in case you accidentally click on a phishing message. It checks if your email was found in any known data breaks.
In the event that Privacy Guard finds your account in a data break, it will notify you and suggest changing your password. That way, you can feel safe and secure, knowing that even if you click on a phishing email, Privacy Guard will help you minimize any potential damage.
Phishing scams are not going anywhere, which is why it’s so important for all email users to learn how to spot and prevent them. Fortunately, tools like Clean Email have proven themselves to be very effective when it comes to automatically removing unwanted messages before they can cause any trouble.
How to Avoid Phishing Attacks - FAQs
What happens if you open a phishing email?
The consequences of opening a phishing email depend on the goal of the phisher. Clicking on a link, attachment, or even opening a phishing message can start installing malware, such as viruses, spyware, or ransomware, onto your device.
Where do I report phishing emails?
When you receive a phishing email, you should forward it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got a phishing text message, forward it to SPAM (7726). If you become a victim of phishing, report the phishing attack to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
What are examples of phishing?
While phishing scams used to be ridiculous, they have evolved to a point where they can fool tech and hack-savvy individuals in their personal and professional lives. Some of the most common examples of phishing include:
- Deceptive phishing
- Spear phishing
- CEO fraud
- Dropbox Fishing
What do I do if I responded to a phishing email?
If you respond to a phishing email, you need to change your account’s password immediately. If your online banking account or any other personal account has the same password, change it too. Also, you should call your bank for good measure and make them aware that there was a security breach incident. Depending on your bank protocols, they might issue you a new account number. After you have secured your most vulnerable accounts, go back to your email and ensure that you have good anti-spam software and the latest edition of your internet browser installed.
How do I get rid of phishing emails?
Sadly, there is no surefire way to eradicate phishing emails completely. There are plenty of ways to monitor them and limit the spam that makes its way into your inbox:
- Mark any suspicious emails or addresses as spam.
- Remain vigilant and only use security measures as a tool, not with blind faith.
- Make sure you have good anti-spam and anti-virus installed on your computer.
- Always be safe when going through your emails and never open anything suspicious.
- Keep your email and your passwords private.