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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Emails

You may feel stupid if you fell for a phishing scheme, but the signs aren't always obvious. You're always told to look at the sender's address, company logo, and misspelled words. However, criminals have upped their game as far as tricking you to click that link and give up your information. The practice they use is social engineering, an act to make you react to the header or content of the email rather than the sender information. As I've always stated in my blog posts, 99% of cybercrime requires user interaction, which means if crooks want your information, you need to give it to them. To avoid falling victim to many of the email and text phishing scams out there, check out these quick and easy tips that will help you stay safe.

1. Emails won't ask for your personal information via email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a company that provides a link or attachment and asks you to provide sensitive information, it’s a scam. Companies do not send you emails asking for passwords, credit card information, credit scores, or tax numbers, nor will they send you a link from which you need to log in.

2. Unless it's your 5 year old nephew, there won't be grammatical errors in emails. Take the time to check out the grammar of that email that appears in your inbox. An email from a legitimate organization will be well written. Companies want to have a professional image. You might the misspelling of words in those scam emails is done because criminals are stupid. That's furthest from the truth. Most of them prey on uneducated people believing them to be less observant and which makes them easier targets.

3. Make sure the email address matches the company website. It's important not to just check the name of the person sending you an email, you also need to check the email address as well. If you're getting an email from a company, it will come from an email that matches the company's website, not a Gmail address or a domain address other than the company's official website. If the email doesn't match the website, it's a good sign that you don't need to respond to the message.

4. People and companies who contact you know your name. Criminals try to be personal when they write you, but they can't. In most instances, they just have a list of emails to work with so you will get messages that start with “Dear valued member,” “Dear account holder,” or “Dear customer.” If a company you deal with requires information about your account, the email would call you by name and probably direct you to contact them via phone.

5. When they try to get you to visit a website, beware! Sometimes phishing emails have links in them that get you to visit another site. If you accidentally or deliberately click anywhere in the email will open a fake web page, or download spam onto your computer.

It's always a good idea to keep your eyes open for those phishing emails that pop in your box, you need to be a little proactive as well. Although checking suspicious e-mails is a good idea, keeping phishing emails from even reaching you is better. Consider using an email only for those online purchases that you make and keep your main email secret that you share only with family and friends. Also, make sure you have anti-phishing controls set up on your email accounts to filter bad emails and to let your email provider know which ones are real and which ones are fake.

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