What Is A Common Indicator Of A Phishing Attempt?

Sometimes, navigating the world wide web can feel more like trekking through the wild wild west.

There are exciting things to see at every corner, but every now and again, you find yourself walking through a minefield.

What Is A Common Indicator Of A Phishing Attempt

The internet isn’t always safe, and unfortunately, hackers and scammers like to lurk in the shadows and target those they think are vulnerable. 

Phishing is just one deceptive tool in the hacker’s arsenal, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Here’s how to tell whether you’re being targeted by a phishing attempt, and how to protect yourself. 

What Is Phishing? 

Phishing is a type of social engineering used by hackers and scammers to try and extract personal information from web users.

In this cybercrime, targets are usually approached via email, and in some cases, telephone or text message. 

In almost all phishing attempts, the hacker will post as a legitimate institution to gain your trust, and try and encourage you to hand over your personal information.

This is usually credit card numbers and passwords. As technology evolves, phishing attempts have become more and more sophisticated.

Even if you used to be able to determine the spam emails from the legit ones, you may find you’re now struggling to tell the difference. 

There are also kinds of phishing, including: 

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing involves sending fake emails to individuals or organizations.

Spear phishing is often more malicious than regular phishing, and hackers may come across as more pressing or intimidating in their communications, and may even try to install malware on your computer.

Social Media Phishing

These phishing attempts take place on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Hackers will often use fake accounts and websites to try and persuade you to hand over your personal information, including credit card numbers, and will often beg for money. 

Pop-Up Phishing

As the name suggests, pop-up phishing is usually executed through pop-up windows that will appear on your screen or web page.

Often, these pop-ups will appear as a system error message from your antivirus software, and may even have the same logos, fonts, and appearance as these trusted websites and companies. 

The Indicators Of A Phishing Attempt 

Even if you’re not a tech guru, you can learn some simple ways to spot the telltale signs of a phishing attempt.

You don’t need to be a computer whizz or a hacking mastermind to do this, and once you’ve become familiar with the signs, you can protect yourself, your family, or your institution from the dangers of phishing attempts.

Here are some of the most common signs you should be looking out for: 

Weird Greetings 

Many phishing emails will often begin with a strange greeting or subject line. Here are a few examples: 

  • “Dear customer! We are happy to announce that our bank can now offer you some exciting new services for our clients….” 
  • “Congratulations, you’ve been chosen…” 
  • “Single? I’m waiting to chat to you…” 
  • “Hi Gary, do you still need my bank details?” 

These are just a few examples of the sort of tone or greeting that can be used in a phishing email. Some other indicators can be: 

  • An unusual amount of emojis in the subject line 
  • Punctuation or symbols that seem out of place, including unnecessary speech marks, arrows (<>), excessive exclamation marks, and so on

Most phishing attempts will pretend to be from financial institutions such as banks or card companies. If you ever get an email like this, do NOT click on a link.

What Is A Common Indicator Of A Phishing Attempt

These may be malicious and could steal your personal information. Always head directly to your bank’s website yourself by typing in the web address or logging into the app.

Clicking any link from a suspicious email is a big no-no. 

Grammatical Errors And Spelling Mistakes 

Hackers and phishers often make spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in their attempts.

So, if you’ve ever had an email claiming to be from your bank, but you’ve noticed several words spelled wrong, there’s a good chance it’s a phishing attempt.

Professional businesses will be thorough in their communications and use experienced copywriters to craft their messages, so the chance of seeing a spelling mistake from a reputable company is extremely low. 

Too Good To Be True? 

Cyber Criminals will do whatever they can to lure you in. They want your money, and they’ll go to any length necessary to get your attention.

In some cases, this can involve making an offer that seems too good to be true. 

Some common examples include: 

  • Being told you’ve just inherited millions of dollars from an estranged relative (yes, really) 
  • Being told you’ve just won a large amount of money through a competition 
  • Being offered hundreds of dollars off reputable, high-end stores like Macy’s

If you’ve ever received an email like this, they’ll usually ask you to click on a link to claim your code and type in your personal information to claim it.

Of course, this is all a scam, and the phisher will use your personal information for their own gain. 

Abnormalities In Email Addresses, Names, And Links 

Phishing emails are often sent from random email addresses that don’t match the domain.

For example, if your email is pretending to be from your bank, but you click on the address and see it’s from an email ending it @yahoo.com… it’s not your bank. This should raise serious red flags. 

Hyperlinks are also a dead giveaway. If you hover over a link (without clicking it), you’ll be able to see where the URL would take you.

If your email is from your bank, but the URL is taking you to a completely random URL such as ‘americabank.us’, someone is probably trying to steal your information. 

The Bottom Line 

These are the most common indicators of a phishing attempt, and thankfully, they’re pretty easy to spot. If you ever get a suspicious-looking email, delete it straight away, and NEVER click on a link or respond.

You should also report these emails to your provider and if possible, block the address that sent you the email to avoid further contact. 

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