Phishing scams are one of the most popular ways hackers steal your information or bypass your security devices.
Phishing is the act of sending an email that seems like it came from someone you know but comes from a hacker who has hacked into that person’s account. The email will usually contain some type of link or attachment, so when you click on it, either your computer gets hacked, or hackers steal important information like passwords and bank info.
How to Tell Whether an Email Is a Phishing Scam
The easiest way to identify a phishing email is to hover your cursor over the link and look at the URL. If it doesn’t match what you know it should be, there is a 99% chance that it is a phishing email. Another way to identify if an email has been sent from a hacker is by reading the email body. Hackers will usually use poor grammar and spelling errors in their emails, whereas someone you know will usually write with proper grammar and spelling.
Aside from the most common phishing signals, learn these 5 email tricks hackers don’t want you to know with this article.
The 5 Tricks Hackers Don’t Want You to Know
Phishing scams have been around for a long time, but they’ve never been more dangerous than they are right now. This is because phishers can use your location to find out where you live and what other devices you own. Armed with this information, they can target their messages to be specific to you. They might know that if the message seems urgent enough, it will prompt you to click on a link or download an attachment without thinking twice about it—and that could give them access to all of your data!
1. Be Careful With Attachments
An attachment can be disguised to look like something enticing, so don’t open any attachments without first checking the sender’s email address and the content of the subject line. Even if you do know who sent it, an attachment can contain malware that a hacker inserted.
- Frequent email checking: hackers can use this to their advantage if your email is set up to allow instant notifications for new messages. They’ll know in real-time when you’ve just logged in!
2. Watch Out for Links
Pretty much anything that’s live on the internet can be manipulated to work for hackers. Links are especially dangerous because they seem innocuous but take you to a website where malicious code is waiting to steal your passwords or hack your device.
- Many people are still fooled by shortened links, which can take you to some very unsavory places. Check out the link at the end of this sentence—it was shortened using bit.ly, but it takes you to a page that will download malware onto your computer!
3. Watch for Spoofing Attempts
You might receive an email from someone who has been impersonated. This is called spoofing, and hackers do it because it’s effective at fooling people into revealing passwords or personal information without realizing they have done anything wrong. To give you an idea of how common this scam is…one company reported that more than 1 in 10 email messages were fake!
That’s why companies, organizations, and other institutions choose employees to have simulation training and awareness for email phishing scams for an added security. Doing this will help teach employees what to do if they encounter this phishing scam using their company’s email address.
Cybercriminals are also fond of surreptitiously redirecting you to fake web pages that are designed to look like what you’d expect. This can happen for legitimate reasons, but if you notice something odd about your browser when it happens, proceed with caution.
4. Check Domains Closely
By slightly changing the domain name, hackers will try to trick you into visiting spoofed websites—a fake version of the site you want to visit. Look closely at that URL to make sure it matches exactly.
Check out the URL bar of your browser. Does it say that you’re visiting a secure site? Most browsers will turn the “s” into a green padlock to confirm that a website encrypts connections so your data can’t be harvested from wiretaps. If not, don’t go there!
5. Keep Up-to-Date Anti-Virus Software
It should go without saying that hackers don’t want people to have access to programs that will detect malicious code before it crashes their system or steals their data—and they definitely don’t want people uploading files they find suspicious to online scanners so anybody who opens them is warned about the risk. That means security software prices will always be kept high because there are companies out there who are getting rich selling anti-virus protection that is only effective on the front end.
Don’t forget about updates! You might have gotten a pop-up notice on your screen to notify you of one, but if not, manually check for them at least once a month. A vulnerability could be easier to exploit because it hasn’t been patched yet.
Other Ways to Prevent Yourself From Email Phishing Scams
Aside from the above tips, below are the most uncommon phishing signals you should be aware of:
Use Extra Caution With Financial Institutions and Social Media
You know hackers are targeting these kinds of sites because they want all the information they can get about you, especially when it comes to finances and identifying details. They might pose as representatives of popular brands on social media networks to gain access to this sort of information, but people have been conned into giving up their login credentials and other sensitive information, as well!
Be especially careful about the links you follow on social media—they could be phishing scams. It’s always wisest not to click through them unless you know where they’ll take you—or even better, go directly to the website itself by typing in its URL address into your browser instead of following a link.
Think Twice Before Sharing Info
Sharing personal information, especially financial details, can put you at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft if your phone is hacked or hackers gain access to your PC using malware. If you have any doubts about someone who contacts you online, don’t share your data—just explain politely that you don’t want to discuss your finances via email. One exception would be expecting an important email from a financial institution and needing immediate action because the message contains something critical like an e-transfer or an urgent notice about suspicious activity on one of your accounts.
Keep Your OS Up-to-Date
Hackers are always looking for security gaps. Sometimes, they’ll find out about a software bug that allows them to bypass security entirely. All you can do as a user is make sure you know as soon as the developer fixes the problem and install those updates as quickly as possible to close that hole. Your operating system will look out for you automatically if you set it right, but sometimes those updates don’t come through automatically; check yourself and make sure your OS is up-to-date!
Phishers get their hands on personal data by sending an email from a fake company and asking you for sensitive details like credit card numbers, passwords, usernames, etc. Most people fall prey because they assume it’s coming from someone they know or something legitimate.
The problem is there’s no easy way to tell who sent the email – which means if you give up this kind of info over email – it could be too late—learning the above email tricks that hackers don’t want you to know will stop them dead in their tracks!
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