Recognizing Phishing Emails Tips for Spotting Fake Messages

Recognizing Phishing Emails Tips for Spotting Fake Messages

March 15, 2024

Spotting Fake Emails: Your Guide to Avoiding Phishing Scams

The digital age has transformed communication, but it has also opened the door to malicious activity. Phishing emails are a devious attempt to steal your personal and financial information by mimicking legitimate senders. Recognizing these scams is crucial to protecting yourself online.

In this blog, we’ll give you the full rundown – we’ll teach you all about phishing emails, the different types that exist, how to become better at spotting them, and what to do when you encounter one. By the end, you should be a more informed digital user and you can be confident that you’re playing your role in protecting your identity and accounts.

Understanding Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are cunningly crafted to seem legitimate, tricking you into handing over sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details, or social security numbers. These attacks may also introduce malware into your system, putting your digital life at risk.

Phishing has been around for longer than you might think, dating back to the 1990s with schemes targeting AOL users. Over time, these scams have grown more complex, employing psychological and social engineering tactics to dupe victims. The effectiveness of phishing scams is staggering, with billions lost annually to these schemes.

How To Spot a Phishing Email

To catch a phishing email, look for these giveaways:

  • Odd Email Addresses:
    Genuine companies use domain-matching email addresses (like Be skeptical of strange addresses with typos, odd domains, or random characters.
  • Pressure Tactics:
    Phishing attempts often urge quick action with phrases like “immediate action required” or threats of account suspension.
  • Language and Grammar Mistakes:
    Legitimate businesses communicate professionally. Sloppy writing is a big red flag.
  • Link Discrepancies:
    Before clicking, check links by hovering your mouse over them. A mismatch between the text and the actual URL is a telltale sign of fraud.
  • Suspicious Requests:
    Be cautious of emails asking for personal details. Legitimate entities rarely make such requests through email.

Here’s how can confirm a phishing attempt:

  1. Verify the Sender’s Address:
    Don’t just rely on the displayed name. Check the full email address for inconsistencies. Legitimate companies will use email addresses that match their domain name.
  2. Beware of Generic Greetings:
    Phishing emails often use generic greetings like “Dear Customer” or “Dear User” instead of addressing you by name. Legitimate companies typically have access to your name and will use it in their correspondence.
  3. Analyze the Content:
    Watch out for fear tactics like threats of account suspension or unrealistic offers of sudden wealth or prizes you haven’t entered. Be wary of excessive exclamation points and overly enthusiastic language designed to pressure you into clicking a link. Phishing emails often contain a strong sense of urgency, urging you to take immediate action without giving you time to think critically.
  4. Hover Over Links:
    Don’t click on suspicious links directly. Hover over them with your mouse to see the actual URL in the tooltip. If the displayed text and the actual URL don’t match, assume it’s not safe to click.
  5. Be Skeptical and Double-Check:
    If an email seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always double-check information with the official source before taking any action. Don’t hesitate to contact the company directly through a phone number or website you know is legitimate, not the information provided in the email.

Types of Phishing Scams

Since phishing was invented, the tactics used have evolved and now come in various forms. Here are the most common types:

Spear Phishing
These target specific individuals with personalized information to appear more trustworthy. Attackers might gather information from social media profiles or data breaches to craft emails that seem legitimate.

This tactic focuses on high-profile targets like CEOs or executives, hoping for a bigger payoff. Whalers might impersonate board members, investors, or other authority figures to trick victims into surrendering sensitive information or authorizing fraudulent transactions.

Clone Phishing
Scammers mimic legitimate emails from someone you know, like a colleague or friend. They might even use spoofed email addresses to make them appear even more believable. The email might contain a malicious attachment or a link that redirects you to a fake website designed to steal your credentials.

This involves diverting you to a fake website that looks identical to a real one, such as your bank’s login page. Once you enter your credentials on the fake website, the scammer steals them. Pharming attacks are often combined with phishing emails that trick you into visiting the fraudulent website.

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

There are a handful of tried-and-tested cyber security measures that you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of phishing. You can put all of these measures into practice today.

  • Use spam filters and security software.
  • Set strong passwords and enable multi-factor authentication.
  • Stay updated on phishing trends.
  • Report any phishing attempts to help combat this cyber threat.

What to Do If You Suspected You’ve Been Targeted

Act fast by changing passwords and contacting your financial institutions to mitigate potential damage. Report the incident to authorities such as the Anti-Phishing Working Group to help track and prevent future scams.

If you suspect that one or more of your Bank of South Texas accounts have been compromised through phishing call us directly at (956) 687-4260.

We would never ask you for your personal information such as passwords, social security, or PINs over email. Please let us know if you receive a suspicious email that appears to be from us.

To learn more about cyber security, particularly when it comes to banking, visit this informative website by the American Banks Association.