What Is a Phishing Email, and How Does It Work?
If you receive an email from a well-known entity, chances are that you’ll trust it and even click on the link it contains. Cyber attackers know that, which is why they disguise themselves as legitimate companies and send you emails containing malicious links.
If you click on these links, you are redirected to a site that looks legit, which makes you trust it enough to provide your credit card details and passwords. When you fill in these details, they go to the attacker directly.
Phishing Email Examples and How to Report Them
Amazon Phishing Emails
Amazon is a huge company, which makes its customers a big target for cyberattacks. This company takes phishing very seriously, and you can report any case by forwarding a phishing email that targets you as an Amazon customer to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amazon will most probably not respond to your email, but you can call them if you feel like your account has been hacked already.
PayPal Phishing Emails
A cybercriminal might also pretend to be a PayPal rep to try and trick you into providing your username and password. So, if you receive any PayPal phishing email, forward it to email@example.com. PayPal will look into it and let you know if it’s indeed fraudulent.
Apple Phishing Emails
You might also receive an email crafted to look like it’s from Apple. If you detect that it’s a scam, report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Types of Phishing Emails
1. The Friendly Bank Email
Most banks notify you after you make a transaction using your account. So, a hacker can take advantage of that fact to trick you. How? Nowadays, cyber attackers can fake notifications, pretending to be your bank. So, they send you an email telling you that a huge amount of cash has been withdrawn from your account. Receiving such an email will definitely worry you. You are then given a link to follow to view the transaction details, where you’ll be asked to submit your bank account information.
2. The Federal Government Maneuver
A hacker can create an email and make it look like it’s from a legit federal body, such as the FBI. Then the hacker will try and scare you into providing private information. In such an email, the attacker can say that you recently downloaded illegal files and therefore your internet will be cut off unless you follow certain instructions, that your insurance information is not correct, etc. Some reasons given by hackers don’t even make sense, but you might find yourself falling for them as they appear legit. The hacker then gives you a certain link to a site where you should fill in the needed details and then steals all that information.
3. The Billing Issue Email
This scam is among the hardest to identify and report. A cyber attacker can craft a unique email “informing” you that an item you recently ordered can’t be shipped to you because the dealer couldn’t verify some details. You are then instructed to follow the given link to provide the details again to complete the transaction. Doing this allows the attacker to get your credit card details and any other vital information they want.
4. The Friend Tactic
If you receive an email from someone claiming to be one of your friends, then you should think twice before engaging in conversation. A hacker can hijack your friend’s email account or list. The criminal will then contact you and try to convince you that your friend needs financial help, and the email will most likely be accompanied by a certain account number or PayPal address to send the money to.
5. The Expiration Date Email
This type of phishing email mostly states that your account with a certain company is almost expired and that you should save your data. To make it easier for you, the hacker provides a link for you to follow and log in to the site. Clicking on this link leads you to a fake site where you fill in your username and password, which are immediately stolen by the hacker. The cybercriminal can then use these login details to access your account, especially if it’s an online financial account, and try to steal your funds.
6. The Contest Winner Email
You should not be overly excited when you receive an email saying that you are the lucky winner of a certain lottery or received an inheritance from an unknown relative. 99.9% of such emails are usually phishing scams. To receive your fortune, you are then tricked into providing some of your crucial information, not knowing you’re being robbed instead.
7. The Compromised Account Notification
Such an email tells you that your device is infected with very dangerous malware, which you should get rid of before it destroys important files. You are then given a link to download a “very effective” software tool to help you remove the malware. Such a file is most likely spyware designed to enable the attacker to see everything on your device, including your usernames and passwords.
8. The Security Breach Notification
An email like this might state that a certain account has been breached. If it’s, for instance, your online banking account, then you might get scared and therefore follow the given link without even thinking twice.
How to Protect Against Phishing Emails
Your email spam filter might help keep some, but not all, phishing emails away. The point is, scammers regularly come up with new tricks to outsmart these filters. Therefore, you need to know the most effective methods for protecting you against phishing. Here are the best ones to try:
1. Install a high-quality VPN. Having an excellent VPN will allow you to stay anonymous when browsing.
2. Use two-factor authentication for your accounts. Doing this makes it hard for hackers to complete any fraudulent transaction as they need a unique code that’s usually sent to your phone. If you receive such codes and you haven’t requested any, then you must change your password immediately.
Phishing emails are common nowadays as cyber attackers never stop trying to gain access to your accounts or steal your crucial information. Hackers even impersonate legitimate companies to try and get your attention and make you fall for their traps. So, you might even get some Google phishing emails out of nowhere. Therefore, it’s vital that you understand how these emails work and the best ways to protect against them. Also, make sure you know how to report phishing emails. That way, you’ll help companies protect their customers against phishing.
How to Identify Phishing Emails
As you already know, there are many types of phishing emails. Therefore, it’s vital that you understand how to determine whether certain emails are legit or not. Here are some tips you can use:
1. Legit Companies Don’t Ask for Personal Information via Email
If you receive an email that’s accompanied by a link instructing you to provide crucial details like tax numbers, passwords and credit card info, then it’s a scam. Most companies will just inform you of an issue and invite you to personally visit their official website and log in to solve the problem or call them to get help.
2. Legit Companies Refer to You by Your Name
Most phishing emails call you ‘Dear Sir/Madam/Account Holder,’ which is a huge red flag. If your bank wants to inform you about a sensitive issue, they will call you by your official name instead of using a generic template.
3. Most Companies Have Unique Email Addresses
When dealing with an email, you should always check the sender’s email address and look for any alterations in it. For instance, if a certain company mostly emails you from an address like email@example.com, then a phishing email disguised as a notification from this company might be from an address like firstname.lastname@example.org. Cybercriminals often add a few letters or numbers to real email addresses when designing their fake accounts as that makes it hard to notice the change. Therefore, double-checking the email address of the company you’re supposedly dealing with by using either previous transactions or the company’s official site will help you determine whether that email is a scam.
4. Legit Companies Rarely Send Attachments
A legit company is unlikely to send you an email with an attachment. Instead, it will ask you to download the file from its official website. Hackers, by contrast, often send email attachments containing malware designed to steal data from your computer without you even noticing.
5. Phishing Emails Often Contain Fake Links
Just because an email states that the provided link will lead you to a certain site, that doesn’t mean it will. Hackers can hyperlink their fake links inside legitimate links. So, you must hover your mouse over the link and see if it displays a different link. If that happens, then it means you just received a phishing email, and it’s a scam.
When Did Phishing Emails First Appear?
Phishing started around the mid-1990s, when hackers used a tool known as AOHell to steal people’s passwords and usernames. When cybercriminals created this trick, many attacks happened as most people did not have any idea what phishing emails were. After some time, this type of attack was exposed, but that did not stop cyber attackers from using it, and phishing attacks happen quite often these days.