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5 Tips to Determine if an Email is Actually a Phishing Scam

Hackers are creating more sophisticated phishing emails daily. With an inbox overflowing with messages, how do you determine what’s safe or not?

At times, opening your inbox and browsing your emails can feel like you’re navigating a minefield – how can you know what’s legitimate or what might be a malicious scam? While email providers are fighting hard against phishing attacks, they are barely scratching the surface. You may be wondering, “How to know if my email was hacked?”. To stay protected you need to keep your eyes open and alert for anything suspicious. To assist you,  here are 5 easy ways to take security into your own hands.

Double Check That ‘Familiar’ Email Address
Just because you see an email from your friend ‘John Smith’, don’t assume this means it came from him. When a hacker sends fake emails, they opt to obscure the sent address with a name that might be familiar. To see the true address, simply tap the name in the ‘From’ field of your smartphone. On a computer, hover over or click the same information with your mouse. You should now be able to see the originating email address and determine if it’s genuine.

Read More: Why Are People Falling for Phishing Scams?

It’s Unlikely That Your Bank Forgot Your Name
Typically, when receiving an email from a secure source, such as a government entity or your financial institution, they will always address you by first and last name. If you receive a generic, unpersonalized email from your bank, there’s a good chance that something fishy is at play. To orchestrate mass phishing scams, hackers will commonly greet you with a readily applicable ‘Dear Sir or Madam.’

Gift Cards Aren’t Legitimate Payment Methods
A recent scam that’s been exploding across the web is the ‘IRS prepaid cards scam.’ A hacker will pose as an IRS agent demanding that you pay your outstanding taxes by purchasing an iTunes card or other gift cards from major retailers. No legitimate institution will request payment of debt with a gift card. Worse, if you fall for this scam, there is little credit card companies can do to protect because you fully authorized the purchase of such cards. If you spot an email asking for gift cards as payment, be sure to delete it right away.

You Probably Don’t Need to ‘Act Right Away!’
Another common phishing scam is when an email urges you to act immediately, causing you to make fast decisions. Reacting out of panic to these kinds of emails can quickly cloud your judgment. If you receive an email alerting you that your device has malware or you’re running out of storage, be sure to drop that ‘alert’ into the trash folder. If you’re genuinely concerned, utilize an antiphishng solution for your smartphone such as dfndr security, which has an anti-hacking feature that not only keeps your phone free from malware but also monitors possible incoming threats that arrive over SMS, email services, messaging apps, and web browsing.

Think Before Downloading an Email Attachment
Does that email you just received contain an email attachment that you weren’t expecting? Unless you were fully prepared to receive an email containing a file, don’t click it! Including malicious pieces of software with false emails are a standard way for hackers to gain access to your machine or phone. In doubt? Always have a third-party antivirus app installed on your devices remains a sensible way to double check email attachments. Remember the security mantra: Don’t know what it is? Don’t click it!