Phishing Emails: What Are They and How Can You Stop Them?

May 18, 2023

Phishing Emails: What Are They and How Can You Stop Them?

In the modern digital era, phishing emails have emerged as a widespread and persistent menace, posing a significant risk to both individuals and organisations. Cybercriminals employ deceptive strategies to dupe unsuspecting recipients into revealing sensitive information or engaging in malicious activities. 

The sophistication of these attacks has increased significantly, extending beyond traditional email channels to include text messages, social media posts, and even QR codes. These fraudulent communications are now more targeted and tailored, incorporating personal information gleaned from social media profiles and other online sources. Consequently, they appear considerably more convincing than they did in the past.

Recent findings from cybersecurity researchers indicate an alarming surge in the volume of phishing emails. For instance, Vade, a prominent cybersecurity company, reported that the number of phishing emails detected by its systems more than doubled in the first quarter of this year, reaching approximately 560 million — a staggering increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2022.

It is essential to comprehend the nature of phishing emails and adopt effective countermeasures to ensure online security and safeguard personal and confidential data.

What does phishing look like?

— Unsolicited emails, text messages, and social media posts.

If an individual or a company contacts you without prior interaction from your side, it is advisable to ignore it. Exercise caution, whether it’s an email claiming your Windows subscription has expired, a text message stating your bank account is compromised, or a social media post promoting heavily discounted designer sunglasses on Instagram. Scammers often target vulnerable individuals affected by mass layoffs. Avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments. Instead, directly visit the official website of the bank or company in question. When approached by a “recruiter,” share personal information exclusively with the company you are applying to. Treat any unsolicited job offers that seem too good to be true with scepticism.

— Cautionary signs emerge when you’re asked to make payments using gift cards or cryptocurrency.

Are you suspicious when a retailer, government agency, or debt collection service requests payment through these means? It is likely a scam. 

— Appeals for financial assistance from unfamiliar individuals (who may even profess love for you).

Still, think that no one falls victim to romance scams? Think again. The Federal Trade Commission in the United States revealed that online romance scams resulted in an astonishing $1.3 billion in losses last year. You might receive an email from a woman claiming to seek refuge from the war in Ukraine or a military serviceman who finds you attractive. However, exercise extreme caution if they are unable to meet you in person for various reasons. The same applies if they request gift cards or cryptocurrency as forms of payment.

— Beware of charity scams.

Similar to romance scams, fraudsters also target individuals with compassionate hearts. They may claim to seek donations for assisting victims of recent natural disasters, wars, or seemingly legitimate aid organisations. Their tactics involve urging immediate contributions, hoping to prevent critical thinking. However, it is essential to exercise caution. Donate only to verified and reputable charitable organisations. Access their official websites directly or connect with them through trusted sources.

Also, read the article "The Importance of Encryption for Data Security."

Understanding Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are fraudulent messages that impersonate legitimate entities such as banks, online services, or reputable organisations. These emails often contain alarming or urgent requests, enticing recipients to click on malicious links, download malicious attachments, or share confidential information. Phishing emails exploit social engineering techniques to manipulate human emotions and induce prompt actions before victims can critically assess the legitimacy of the request.

Red Flags to Identify Phishing Emails:

—  Suspicious Sender: Pay attention to the email address of the sender. Phishing emails often use email addresses that mimic legitimate ones but contain slight variations or misspellings.

—  Urgency or Fear Tactics: Phishing emails frequently create a sense of urgency, emphasising consequences if immediate action is not taken.

—  Poor Grammar and Spelling: Phishing emails often contain noticeable grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

Suspicious URLs: Hover over links in the email without clicking to reveal the actual URL. Phishing emails may use deceptive URLs or redirect to malicious websites.

Requests for Sensitive Information: Legitimate organisations typically do not ask for sensitive information via email. Be cautious with emails seeking passwords, social security numbers, or financial details.

How to Stop Phishing Emails

—  Education and Awareness: Educate yourself and your team about phishing techniques, common red flags, and best practices for identifying and reporting suspicious emails.

Strong Security Software: Use up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software to detect and block phishing emails before they reach your inbox.

Email Filters and Spam Detection: Enable strong email filters and detection mechanisms to automatically divert suspicious emails to the spam folder.

Verify Requests Independently: If you receive an email requesting sensitive information or urgent action, independently verify the request by contacting the organisation directly using verified contact information.

—  Do Not Click on Suspicious Links or Download Attachments: Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from emails that appear suspicious. Verify the legitimacy of the email and its contents before taking any action.

Report Phishing Emails: Report phishing emails to your email service provider, as well as to the organisations being impersonated, to help protect others from falling victim to similar attacks.

—  Consider implementing a credit freeze.

Suppose you suspect your Social Security number or other highly sensitive information has been compromised. In that case, placing a credit freeze can thwart cybercriminals from fraudulently obtaining loans or engaging in identity theft under your name. Some security experts suggest extending this precautionary measure to children’s credit until it becomes necessary, as identity theft targeting minors often goes unnoticed.

For more detailed information on fraud prevention measures, please refer to the article "Cybersecurity in 2023: How to Protect Your Business."

Enhance Financial Security with Payrow Payment Services

Implementing security measures, educating users, and fostering a culture of scepticism towards unsolicited or suspicious emails are essential steps towards stopping phishing emails and safeguarding sensitive information in today’s digital landscape. Many businesses integrate payment systems to improve the user experience and enable access to additional services, including making purchases or transferring money. They often collaborate with banks and PSPs that guarantee customers' safety from their side. Enterprises may also need apps for tracking income and expenses, reporting, and accounting. To prevent unauthorised access to the data in such apps, you may set your own strong passwords, aside from a built-in security protocol.  

We offer additional authentication options, including security tokens and biometric data, to protect against hacker attacks. Make your payments secure with Payrow! 

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