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How to Recognize (and Avoid) Email Phishing Scams

Posted by Tom Hallissey on Jul 11, 2018 10:00:00 AM

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Did you know that on average email phishing scams cost a mid-size company about $1.6 million? Just one wrong link click could be enough to cripple your entire organization. As these serious cyber threats continue to spread, it is more crucial than ever that businesses know how to identify and avoid phishing.

What are Phishing Scams?

“Phishing is an attempt by an individual or group to solicit personal information from unsuspecting users by employing social engineering techniques,” according to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team. “Phishing emails are crafted to appear as if they have been sent from a legitimate organization or known individual.”

“These emails often attempt to entice users to click on a link that will take the user to a fraudulent website that appears legitimate. The user then may be asked to provide personal information, such as account usernames and passwords, that can further expose them to future compromises.”

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What Damage can Email Phishing do?

Email phishing scams have been known to cause individuals and institutions serious issues, including:

  • Stolen username and password
  • Intrusion into a computer or network
  • Withdrawal of money from a bank account
  • Purchases charged
  • New financial accounts opened
  • Social Security number compromised

How to Recognize a Phishing Email

Phishing email scams are becoming more and more sophisticated every day. They can even be difficult to distinguish from a legitimate email. In order to spot one, look for these three red flags:

  • Unknown email address
  • Urgent call to action
  • Suspicious website link

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How to Protect yourself from Phishing

1)      Don’t Open Attachments or Click Links

Since attached files and links can contain malware, it’s better not to open an attachment or click on a link from an unknown sender.

2)      Don’t Respond

You should never respond to a phishing email, because you will likely receive even more spam now that scammers know your account is live and active.

3)      Research the Website or Phone Number

Although you should never follow a link to a website or phone number, a good precaution to take is to research the contact information contained in the email before following up.

4)      Turn on Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentic, which requires both your password and an additional piece of information to log in, will decrease the chances of getting hacked. Many financial institutions now allow customers to enable this feature.

5)      Back up your Files

No one is impervious to a cyberattack. It is highly recommended that you back up your files regularly just in case.

6)      Keep your Security Software up to Date

Security software provides another level of defense against phishing scams. Once you have chosen one, set your program to update automatically, so you can stay ahead of scammers.

7)      Report Phishing Scams

If you have fallen victim to email phishing, you can report it. The Federal Trade Commission suggests that you forward the messages to or file a report at

Although it’s always tempting to click on a link or download an attachment, it’s better to be cautious. By knowing how to recognize and protect yourself from phishing scams, you can avoid unnecessary financial issues.

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