Phishing has been one of the most widespread and dangerous types of Internet scams for years, causing millions of users lose money, privacy and their peace of mind. But what exactly is phishing and how can you prevent it? We’ll be answering all of your questions in this week’s article. This guide will help you navigate the turbulent waters of the internet safely.
What is phishing?
If you happen to crawl out from under the rock from time to time and have been online in recent years, you’ve probably heard of phishing, the cyber equivalent of the old bait-and-switch. Phishing, surprisingly named after “fishing”, revolves around the bad agents trying to lure and hook your personal information through bait messages. The bait can be a regular email, a text message on your phone, a phone call, seemingly from a legitimate company like a bank, an online store, a government agency branch or a usual customer service. The hook is usually something that fish has to swallow, and in the world of online swindling hooks are represented by links leading to websites that look authentic down to the last pixel, but turn out to be a ploy to profit off of gullible users.
These sham sites lure you into giving up your confidential information like bank account numbers, passwords, and Social Security numbers (for the US residents). Cybercriminals then use this data to commit fraud or identity theft, leaving you with a tangled mess that can take years to untangle. Aside from that, they can sell your personal data on the black market, which is also pretty bad.
The important question to ask yourself now is how do you spot a phishing link amidst the sea of online content? Let’s take a closer look at the whole mechanism of phishing.
What is a common indicator of a phishing attempt?
The good ol’ hook, line, and sinker. Recognizing a phishing attempt is fairly easy if you can recognize the pattern. Phishing scams have become more sophisticated and convincing, making it trickier to spot them. Here are some common indicators of a phishing attempt:
A Sense of Urgency
Phishing emails often use scare tactics, like warnings about account closure or unauthorized activity, to prompt immediate action. Be wary of messages pressuring you to act immediately or face dire consequences. They often come up with exquisite calls for immediate action, like you’re running out of time and it is your last chance to save your soul.
Many phishing emails begin with generic greetings like “Dear friend”, “Dear valued customer” or “Dear account holder.” Legitimate companies often use your name in their communications. Also, scammers don’t see anything wrong in using ridiculous names or names of famous people on their accounts, as you may have witnessed if some bozo had sent you a letter or two saying that he’s your long-lost relative from another continent.
Spelling and Grammar Errors
We at ZoogVPN aren’t scholars in English philology, but still, some of these scamming emails are hilarious to read. While anyone can make a typo, glaring spelling and grammar mistakes in an email supposedly from a reputable company can be a red flag. Legitimate companies often have teams dedicated to ensuring their communications are error-free. Or at least a Grammarly account.
Often times, scammers are using links with mismatched destination URLs. Also, they may use a shortened email by using bit . ly or similar shortening services. DO NOT OPEN these links. Of course, there are also emails with a snake-like paragraph-long link with all kinds of symbols, those are no-no as well. As a matter of fact, don’t open any links sent by some randoms, ok?
Request for Confidential Information
This is outright disrespectful. Legitimate companies won’t ask for sensitive information like your password or Social Security number via email. If an email or site is asking you to enter this kind of information, it’s a big red flag. Scammers may create something creative like they’re looking forward to working in the field you’re in, and ask for your information, but if you don’t know who are these people and what company/organization they represent, don’t bother responding.
Unknown or unusual Sender
If the email is coming from a public email domain, like @gmail.com or @yahoo.com, instead of a corporate email domain, or the sender’s email address doesn’t match the company’s usual format, be suspicious.
How to spot phishing links?
Knowing how to spot a phishing link is your best defense against these cyber scams. Here are some tips:
Check the URL
Before you click, hover over the link to see the actual URL. Look for subtle misspellings, extra or unusual characters, or unfamiliar domains.
Look for “https”
A secure site’s URL will begin with “https” (the “s” stands for secure) and often include a padlock icon. While not foolproof, it’s a good sign the site is legitimate.
Use a Link Scanner
There are online tools available, like URL scanners, that can check the safety of a link before you click it. These tools can provide an extra layer of security, especially when dealing with unfamiliar links.
How to avoid phishing attempts?
The best way to avoid a phishing scam is to stay vigilant and adopt safe browsing habits. Here are some measures you can take:
Don’t click on suspicious links
If you’re unsure about a link, don’t click it. If you see a shady URL to an unknown website, don’t even bother entering its address in your browser. Avoid shortened and long links, as well as mismatched links.
Keep your software up-to-date and use high quality email services
Regularly updating your software, including your operating system, browser, and antivirus software, can help protect you from phishing attempts. If you’re using Windows 11 mail app, Windows Defender will most likely warn you if there’s a threat. Also, don’t ever ignore when your email service of choice redirects messages into a Spam box. Of course, there can be some mistakes, but most of the time they redirect these messages for a reason.
Use two-factor authentication
This should be an essential step for everyone at this point. 2FA is a necessity if you care about your privacy. Two-factor authentication, which requires two forms of verification to log into an account, can add an extra layer of security. Also, if you are an avid gamer and have a Steam account worth some money, you have to use 2FA in order to protect your account from getting hijacked.
Get a VPN when using public hotspots
A Virtual Private Network encrypts your online activity, making it harder for scammers to access your personal information when you use public Wi-Fi. It’s a great addition to your anti-phishing toolkit.
If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be skeptical of unsolicited communications, especially those promising big rewards or threatening severe consequences. Our staff writer does not trust anyone, especially his teammates in League of Legends, and so shall you if you want your personal information to stay personal.
What happens if you click on a phishing email?
If you click on a phishing link, you could be redirected to a fraudulent website designed to steal your personal information. If you clicked on a phishing link but did not enter details, you likely haven’t compromised your information. However, it’s still a good idea to run a security scan on your device.
What happens if you reply to a phishing email?
Replying to a phishing email can confirm to the scammer that your email address is active, which could lead to you receiving more phishing emails in the future. It’s best to avoid responding. There can also be a mechanism, activated by your reply. A big no-no.
Are there Microsoft phishing email examples?
Yes, phishing emails pretending to be from Microsoft are common. They might claim there’s a problem with your Microsoft account or offer a Microsoft software upgrade. Always be suspicious of unsolicited emails asking for your personal information.
What are some red flags for phishing emails?
Some phishing email red flags include generic greetings, urgent or threatening language, requests for personal information, and mismatched or suspicious URLs.
I clicked on phishing link but did not enter details. What to do now?
You should change your passwords on an email address you’ve sent your details from, add a two-factor authentication and run a windows defender security check ASAP.
ZoogVPN is a popular Virtual Private Network service that provides excellent privacy protection and is an excellent choice for hiding your internet history from internet providers, accessing restricted streaming services and websites and having a secure internet sessions. ZoogVPN uses strong encryption protocols to ensure that your data is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties. Additionally, the service does not keep any logs of your internet activity, ensuring that your online privacy is protected.
ZoogVPN has a user-friendly interface and is easy to use, making it an excellent choice for beginners. It also has fast connection speeds, allowing you to browse the internet quickly and efficiently. Overall, ZoogVPN is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality VPN to protect their online privacy and hide their internet history from prying eyes. Ooh, by the way, we have a free plan with 5 different servers around the world, so make sure to check it out if you’re still testing the waters!