How to Identify Phishing Attacks

Feb 14, 2017 12:46:20 PM

Phishing is an increasingly popular way for cybercriminals to steal a user’s personal information. Phishing is accomplished through electronic communication, usually in the form of a fake website that appears to be genuine, and can be difficult for the average person to detect. These nefarious cyber invitations will seem to be coming from a legitimate source to trick users into revealing login information or to install malware on their computers. Hackers do this by requesting sensitive details about bank information and personal identity or they include dangerous attachments in emails.

With so many emails flooding one’s inbox, and the fast-paced lifestyle of today, how can you tell what is real and what is a scam? Below are a few easy ways to identify a phishing scam if it arrives in your email.

Personal Information Request

Legitimate banks, bill collectors and websites that require payment will never ask for your bank account, credit card or social security number or through email. It’s a major red flag if you receive any notification to enter your personal financial information through an unsecured email. Block the sender or go an extra step and report it.

Threatening Language or Urgency

A lot of phishing scams focus on ominous language to instill a sense of urgency and fear into their targets. When emails use language such as deactivation or cancellation of your account if “immediate action” is not taken, don’t fall for it. It’s a scare tactic to get you to hand over your financial information so hackers can gain access to your bank account or credit card.

Lack of Personalization

Whenever you receive an email that does not use your name and instead gives you a generic “Dear customer,” it could imply a phishing scam. Legitimate companies tend to know their customers and will go the extra mile to make sure you are properly addressed. The same goes for when an email lacks a signature line or includes one that has confusing contact information. If they don’t make it easy for you to give them a call, chances are they don’t want to be called for a reason.


Phishing scams also utilize attachments to install malware on your computer. If you receive an attachment from someone you don't know, or if it is in a compressed “zip” file, don’t open it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Illegitimate Links

One of the biggest tip-offs of phishing scams is the use of phony links. When clicking a hyperlink, you may think you’re going to one page when the link actually redirects you to a completely different site often imitating the original. If you hover over the link without clicking on it, you can see where the link will actually take you. If the “.com” portion of the link is not preceded by the real name of a legitimate organization, do not click.

Poor Grammar or Spelling

Finally, anyone that sends an email which includes horrible grammar and multiple spelling mistakes is coming from an illegitimate source.

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Written by staff

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