Even in this age of social media, texting and instant messaging, we still rely a great deal on email. From email messages from our workplaces to communications with old and new friends, we rely on our email inboxes for information, entertainment and even our livelihoods.
Unfortunately, the same email inboxes that we find so useful can turn against us in the blink of an eye – or the click of a mouse. Clicking a single link could infect your computer with a virus, install a key logger or steal your personal information.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to protect yourself and avoid becoming the latest victim of this growing menace. Knowing the warning signs of an email phishing scam can help a great deal, and once you spot the red flags you can take the appropriate action.
The Identity of the Sender
If you receive a message from IScamU at Gmail.com or IStealUR$ at ScamArtistsAreUs, chances are you will recognize the missive for what it is and simply ignore it. Unfortunately, most attempts at email phishing are a little more subtle, so you need to read between the lines and use your common sense.
The identity of the sender can provide real clues about the legitimacy, or lack of same, of the message. Watch out for email addresses that do not match the purported source of the email, i.e. an email address of BobSmith@msn.com is likely not affiliated with Bank of America. A mismatch between the email address and the company it is supposedly coming from is a dead giveaway, and it is the first thing you should be looking for.
Keep in mind, however, that email spoofing technology is getting better with every passing year, and well-capitalized bad guys can send emails that appear to come from just about anywhere. The identity fo the sender and the email address on the other end of the communication is important, but it is not the only thing you should be looking for.
Keep Unwanted Email out of your Inbox
Having a robust spam control to keep emails out of your inbox, and thus, negating their effect is a key defensive strategy. There are many open source spam tools that are available to many email hosting plans, but a commercial grade spam filtering system will do a much better job as it is trained to review spamming patterns and new trends. Our spam filtering system that is in place on our Email Hosting plans, goes through 50 filtering mechanisms before being delivered to your inbox. That’s a lot of protection.
What’s more, if having data sovereignty of your emails, and need a Canadian alternative to using Google Apps where you know your data is hosted on Canada soil, whether because of preference or legal requirements, our Email Hosting plans are fully hosted in Canada.
What the Sender Wants You to Do
If you want to steer clear of phishing scams, you need to dig a little deeper, and that means reading through the entire email before clicking a link or taking any action. Take the time read the text of the email, evaluate the language and the grammar skills of the sender and make the appropriate distinctions.
Poor grammar and questionable word choices are two major red flags to watch out for, but once again the scammers are getting better. The most sophisticated scam artists often hire native English speakers to craft their messages, so do not be taken in by perfect grammar and exceptional language skills. You still need to read the email and evaluate the instructions and what you are being asked to do.
One of the most common tricks employed by email phishing schemes it the compromised identity/password change ruse. The text of the email warns that your account at XYX company has been compromised, and an embedded link invites you to change your password immediately.
It is easy to fall for this trick, but acting in haste could cost you your identity. While some legitimate companies may operate in this manner, it is more common for a company that has suffered a data breach to lock the accounts of affected customers and make their notifications via telephone or traditional mail.
If the affected company does communicate by email, they often do not include a link. Instead, they send the affected customers to the main website, where they can reset their passwords and restore their online access.
It is all too easy to get taken in by email phishing schemes, and the scam artists are getting better all the time. They are using sociological research and adapting their techniques as they go. If you want to stay one step ahead, you need to remain vigilant, treat unsolicited messages with suspicion and use your own common sense before taking any action that could harm you and your identity.