One of the most popular online frauds is a phishing fraud. What happens here is that the people running this fraud usually send you an email from a website that you normally trust, such as PayPal, your bank, credit card companies, etc. In the email they tell you that your account information needs to be verified or the account will be closed or you need to update your account info. Many times the email will include a link that will take you to an authentic looking website for you to enter in your information. Most of the information they are asking for is personal and can be used to steal your identity. But the good news is that there are things that you can do to recognize phishing so that you don’t become a victim.
Difficulty rating: Easy to moderate
One thing that you are going to need to do is to look for some misspellings on the email. Many times words will be misspelled slightly; this won’t be anything major, but there might be two “e’s” in a word that is only supposed to have one letter “e”. You can also look for characters in the wrong place. For example you can have three semicolons between phrases when there shouldn’t be any. These things can all be spotted on a phishing email and can help you to spot that the email is not real. In order to spot these errors you are going to need to read the email closely.
Something else that you should look for is formatting errors. To find these you are going to want to look closely at the layout of the page. Most of these errors are going to stand out because professional companies are not going to make these errors, mainly because they pay people to proofread the emails they send out to correct those errors before the email is sent. Some things to look for are no spaces between paragraphs, wrong symbols being used for copyright, and too many spaces between paragraphs.
If you do not have an account with the company that is sending the email and they are telling you that your account needs to be updated then it is obviously an online scam or fraud. So you need to watch to see what companies the emails are coming from.
Another thing that you need to look at is how the emails are being addressed to you and what they are asking for. More often than not a company that you have open accounts with is not going to address you as “customer” but they are going to address you by your last name, at least because they will want to personalize the email. But they also won’t ask for personal information online. If they feel your account needs to be updated they will contact you some other way such as telephone or sending you a form through the mail.
You also need to pay close attention to the addresses that are being included in the email. Many times the email address that is being used to send the email to you is from an unidentifiable source and all legit companies are going to use an identifiable source when sending you emails. Also you need to check the source code, this is actually critical in recognizing phishing. Usually what happens is that they show you one address but are actually using a different address, and if you don’t check to see that both addresses match then you won’t notice that it is actually two different addresses.
Something else to look at is the legal threats they are sending you. Legit companies will never ask you to send in personal information, such as copies of photo IDs through an email. And many times criminals include a lot of needless legal jargon to help convince you it is real.
But in general you should always follow the rule that you should never send any personal information through an email. And if you feel like an email is a phishing attempt you should report it right away.