How to Identify and Avoid Phishing Scams

How to Identify and Avoid Phishing Scams

The two primary approaches for businesses to build a successful phishing prevention plan are through user education and the deployment of specialist software. However, a robust solution does not operate in isolation. Businesses must, therefore, build a holistic approach that integrates both these components to avoid phishing scams.  

In terms of a framework, the ideal method for phishing protection would be to divide efforts into two main categories – 

1) Prevent phishing emails from being sent to users.

You can best prevent receiving spam by using specialized anti-phishing or anti-malware software. There are several options on the market, each with its own set of capabilities including, but not limited to: handling zero-day vulnerabilities; identifying and neutralizing malware attachments; detecting man-in-the-middle attacks; detecting spear-phishing emails; and the handling of email communications cloud-based vs. on-premises. Such software is curated to prevent suspicious emails from reaching the mailbox of the intended user. 

2) Safely handle emails that do manage to reach users.

As with most things, education is key. Businesses should develop educational programs that equip users with the tools to identify fake emails and provide them with detailed instructions to manage questionable correspondence. 

In the next section, we investigate the management of emails that succeeds in breaking the software layer’s protection. This will contain instructions for spotting suspicious emails based on frequently recognized historical trends, as well as a set of best practices for avoiding falling prey to emails that do go through. 

Have you ever received an email that appears to be from your bank, informing you that your account will be frozen unless you verify your personal information? The email might have included a link. And what if you clicked? You may have arrived at a website that required you to enter personal information such as your driver’s license and bank account details. 

What is the issue? The emails are not actually sent by your bank. Instead, they are a component of a scamming tactic known as phishing, which is used by hackers and poses a significant threat to your cybersecurity. 

So, what exactly is phishing?

Phishing is a type of cybercrime in which scammers attempt to get sensitive information or data from you by masquerading themselves as a reliable source. Phishers use a variety of platforms. 

How does Phishing work?

The phisher may begin by establishing who their intended victims will be (whether at the organizational or individual level) and developing techniques to acquire data that may be used to launch an attack. The phisher will next devise methods, such as bogus emails or phony websites, to deliver messages that entice their victims to provide data. 

Phishers will then initiate the assault by sending communications that look trustworthy to the victims. Once the assault is launched, phishers watch and gather the information supplied by the victims on the bogus websites once the assault is launched. Finally, phishers utilize the information they have gathered to make unlawful transactions or conduct fraud. 

How to recognise Phishing

Scammers use email or text communications to mislead you into providing personal information. They may attempt to get your passwords, account numbers, or ID number. They might get access to your email, bank, or other accounts if they obtain such information. Every day, scammers attempt hundreds of phishing assaults like this, and they are often successful. Scammers’ methods are always evolving, but certain tell-tale indicators will help you spot a phishing email or text message. 

Phishing emails and text messages may appear to be from a firm you recognize or trust. They may appear to be from a bank, credit card company, social networking site, online payment website or app, or online shop. Phishing emails and text messages frequently create a story to fool you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment.  

What to look out for:

  1. Phishers could claim there is an issue with your account or payment information.
  2. A bank, maybe not even our own, requests your account details or other personal financial information. Your bank, or any other financial organisation, would never contact you for your Medial Aid/ID number, bank account number, or PIN. Never respond to an email with this information.
  3. Misspellings and grammatical errors. There was a time when phishing emails were easy to identify because they were riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Scammers have grown better at avoiding these mistakes, but if you receive an email riddled with typos and strange wording, it might be from someone phishing.
  4. The standard greeting. Phishing emails may not be targeted at you directly. Instead, the email might begin with a generic greeting like “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Dear Account Holder.”
  5. Senders whose names you do not recognize. Consider deleting an email if you do not recognise the sender. If you do decide to read it, avoid clicking on links or downloading any attachments.
  6. Senders you believe you know. You could get a phishing email from someone you know. But there’s a catch: That email might have originated from a hacked email account belonging to someone you know. If the email asks for personal information or money, check twice as it’s likely a phishing email.
  7. Hyperlinks. If you receive an email requesting you to click on an unfamiliar URL, lingering over the choice may reveal that the link is redirecting you to a false, misspelled site. This URL is designed to appear authentic, but it is most likely a phishing scam.  
  8. Attachments that don’t make sense or look spammy.
  9. Scammers could claim they have noticed suspicious activity or log-in attempts and require you to confirm certain personal information.
  10. The email could contain a false invoice.
  11. They could claim you are qualified to register for a government refund.
  12. Most phishing emails claim there is an urgency for immediate action. Phishers want you to act immediately and without hesitation. This is why many will send emails requesting you to click on links or provide sensitive account information immediately to prevent having your bank account or credit card suspended. Never respond to such emergency requests in haste. Urgent calls for action are frequently phishing attempts.
  13. They could offer a coupon for free items – often offers that appear to be too good to be true. Phishing emails may try to entice you with what appear to be extremely low-cost offers for items such as cell phones or holidays. The offers may appear enticing, but don’t take them. They are almost certainly phishing emails. 

Here is an example of what a phishing email looks like:

Netflix Phishing Example

 Assume you received this in your inbox. Do you see any indications that it is a scam? Let us take a closer look.

• The email appears to be from a firm you may recognize and trust: Netflix. It even incorporates a Netflix logo and header.

• According to the email, Netflix was unable to validate your billing information.

• The email asks you to restart your membership by clicking on a link.

While this email appears to be genuine at first sight, it is not. Scammers that send emails like this one have nothing to do with the companies they pose as. People who provide fraudsters their personal information may face serious penalties because of phishing emails.

There are various types of phishing attacks, we have listed a few below:

Clone Phishing

One of the most difficult assaults to identify is clone phishing. Scammers produce a virtually similar version of an email that victims have already received in this sort of phishing attempt.

The cloned email is sent from an address that is nearly but not quite, identical to the original sender’s email address. The email’s body is also identical. What is the difference? The message’s attachment or link has been modified. The victims will be sent to a bogus website or open an infected file if they click on those links.

Spear Phishing

While most phishing emails are addressed to huge groups of people, spear phishing is a more customized form of assault.

Spear-phishing emails are sent to a specific person, company, or organization. And, unlike more generic phishing emails, the fraudsters who send them do their homework. The method is also known as social engineering.


Phishers may sometimes go after the largest of targets, the whales. Chief executive officers, chief operating officers, and other high-ranking executives are the targets of whaling assaults. The objective is to dupe these influential people into disclosing the most sensitive company information.

These assaults are more complex than standard phishing scams and need extensive research on the part of scammers. They often rely on phishing emails that pretend to be from trustworthy sources within the organization or reputable outside entities.

Pop-up Phishing

Pop-up phishing is a fraud in which pop-up advertisements mislead consumers into downloading malware on their computers or persuade them to buy antivirus protection that they do not require.

These pop-up advertising occasionally employ fear tactics. A popular example of pop-up phishing is when an ad appears on a user’s screen informing them that their computer has been infected and that the only way to eradicate the virus is to install the software. When a consumer installs this software, it either does not operate or, worse, infects the machine with malware.

How To Protect Your PC:

Your email spam filters may block many phishing emails. Scammers however are always attempting to outwit spam filters, so it is a good idea to add extra levels of security. Here are actions you can do right now to safeguard yourself against phishing attempts:

  1. Use security software to protect your PC. Set the program to automatically update so that it can cope with any new security risks. We trust ESET Antivirus Software to keep us safe. If you don’t have an antivirus, get in touch with us today.
  2. Keep your phone secure by configuring the software to update automatically. These upgrades may provide you with essential security protection against security risks.
  3. Use multi-factor authentication to secure your accounts. If scammers obtain your login and password, multi-factor authentication makes it more difficult for them to enter your accounts. The additional credentials required to log in to your account are classified into two types:
    • Something you have, such as a passcode obtained through an authentication program or a security key.
    • Something you are, such as a scan of your fingerprint, retina, or face.
  4. It is vital to enable Office 365 Two Factor Authentication – You can determine which second form of validation works best within your organization and employ that as your additional layer of defence. At Black Bean, we utilize Google Authenticator for all our programs that allow Two Factor Authentication.
  5. You need to enable a strict password policy – Utilize strong passwords that contain letters, numbers, and symbols.
  6. Avoid using public networks – Email transmission over public networks is frequently unencrypted. Hackers might use this restriction to get sensitive information such as account usernames and passwords, stored passwords, and other financial information. Even in the absence of advanced data sniffing technology, rogue hackers may put up entirely free hotspots and trick you into revealing important information. To avoid phishing when utilizing public networks, utilize your mobile’s tethering and hotspot features in conjunction with its 3G/4G data connection rather than relying on public networks.
  7. Watch out for shortened links – They do not display a website’s full name and can thus be used to mislead the receiver into clicking. Hackers can exploit shortened URLs to lure you to imposter sites and steal critical information. Before clicking on a shortened link, always move your mouse over it to view the target location.
  8. Verify the target site’s SSL credentials – SSL technology guarantees secure, encrypted data transfer over the internet. If you get on a website after clicking on an email link, always check its SSL credentials. Never provide sensitive information (passwords, credit card details, security question answers, etc.) on sites that do not have a valid SSL certificate installed as a phishing prevention strategy.
  9. Beware of pop-ups. Popups may simply gather personal information and transfer it to a different domain from the one displayed in the browser toolbar by utilizing Iframe technology. Popups on reputable, established sites seldom ask for sensitive information. No personal information should be provided in popups, even if they appear on domains with valid SSL and have passed all other phishing tests.

While there is no fool-proof method to prevent phishing, common approaches include user education to raise phishing awareness, installing anti-phishing tools and programs, and implementing many other phishing security measures aimed at proactive detection of phishing as mitigation techniques for successful attacks. Stay vigilant and do not hesitate to contact your IT department if you fear you may have fallen prey to a phishing scam or malware infection.


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