Email scams used to be relatively easy to spot. They often had words like ‘Winner!’ splashed across the subject line, along with colourful, flashing emoticons. Anyone who was taught about cybercrime and not to click on suspicious links would be able to see that such emails were scams. Nowadays, though, scammers are highly intelligent, tech-savvy and willing to put in the time to deceive you. Cybercrime is big business, and phishing attacks are one of the baddies favourite routes into an organisation.
How to Spot Phishing Attacks and Avoid Them
What is Phishing?
A phishing scam happens when a cyber criminal pretends to be someone else to gain information. Commonly they do this by sending fake emails designed to look like they’re from a trusted source. The aim is to make you click on malicious websites or attachments, so that you share sensitive data or download malware. Scammers no longer just batch-send hundreds of emails in the hope that one will work; they precisely target their victims (in some cases, scammers have spent years building up trust with companies). Facebook, Google and the White House have all been victims, but data shows that SMEs are at greatest risk. As such, it is crucial that small businesses protect themselves by fully educating their staff about the threat of phishing.
How your team can avoid being scammed?
You might be reading this and thinking “It’ll never happen to me”, but can you confident about every single one of your staff or business contacts? Spotting phishing scams is not always easy, which is exactly how the scammers keep going, but here are some ways to avoid falling prey to phishing attacks:
1. Always double-check emails asking for money – or offering a prize!
If you receive an email asking for an invoice to be paid, always check this thoroughly before sending any money – even if you recognise the sender (phishing emails nowadays often look authentic). Similarly, don’t be tempted by the promise of prizes. If you receive a message in your inbox telling you you’ve won a competition you don’t remember entering, step away.
2. Be suspicious. Is it odd that the sender is contacting you?
If you have been contacted out of the blue, been offered a deal that seems too good to be true, or been given contact details that are very vague, it is possible that the email is a scam. If an email doesn’t look quite right, it probably isn’t. If you’re not sure, check the sender address or just hover over the link before clicking on it to see where it leads to. If you don’t recognise the address or it’s full of odd looking symbols, avoid it like the plague!
3. Check for spelling mistakes and poor grammar
Scammers often use email addresses that are very similar to those of colleagues or clients, with just a subtle difference in the email address. As well as always checking the email address, look out for any uncharacteristic errors in spelling or grammar within the email itself. If there are lots of grammatical errors and language that sounds very old-fashioned, it’s almost always going to be from a scammer.
4. Stay informed
Education is everything, and that goes for you and your staff members. New scams are being developed every day, so it pays to sign up to regular updates and guides that will keep you in the loop. Cyber Security training for all IT users is also highly recommended so you can be confident that everyone knows what to look out for.
5. Be aware of your social media presence
Scammers often ‘stalk’ their victims on social media so that they can gain data to deceive them with (e.g. name, job, friends, employment background, interests and contact details). Think about tweaking your online accounts so that any information that could be used against you is kept safe.
6. Keep your technology up-to-date
Keep your web browser up to date. It might seem like a pain having to keep installing new patches on your internet browser, but updates are there for a reason. Providers release patches in response to phishing attacks and loopholes, so don’t ignore messages to update.
Don’t be easy bait for phishers
You can avoid phishing scams by making sure you – and your team – are prepared for an attack and know what to look out for.
We’ve written a new guide to tell you everything you need to know. Download our new guide today and keep your business safe from phishing.