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woman caught by phishing scamFor decades now, email has been a powerful tool for business owners and ordinary users alike. Thanks to this incredibly valuable invention, friends and family members have been able to connect with one another regardless of physical distance, business owners can work with their colleagues around the world and freelancers can communicate with clients without the cost of complexity of an in-person meeting.

There is no doubt that email is an incredibly useful tool, but it can also be turned against its users. The perpetrators of phishing scams do just that, taking a seemingly innocent email and turning it into a delivery system for malicious software. If you want to protect yourself from these dangers, you need to know the warning signs, including the ones listed below.

  • A lack of personalization – Perpetrators of phishing scams can send out tens of millions of emails, hoping to snag just a few willing victims. As a result, these messages are rarely personalized, and the sender will not know who you are. Proceed with caution if the person on the other end does not seem to know you, even as they claim to know you very well.
  • A domain name mismatch – Those who create phishing attacks masquerade as others, claiming to be from banks, brokerage firms, money transfer services and more. The emails they send may appear to be from those legitimate sources, but a closer look will likely reveal some discrepancies. Take a closer look at the website address and return email information; a mismatch is a clear indication of a phishing attack.
  • Poor grammar – Some scammers have cleaned up their act where grammar and spelling is concerned, but others use these mistakes to find the most likely victims. They reason that someone willing to overlook blatant grammatical and spelling mistakes is more likely to follow through with requests for money, gift cards and personal information.
  • Strange URLs – Phishing emails typically do their damage via embedded links. When the victim clicks on an internal link inside the email, they may be inadvertently installing key loggers, viruses and other malware. Before you click on any link, hover your cursor over it to reveal the URL. Unusual or overly long web addresses should definitely be cause for concern.
  • The offer seems to good to be true – The perpetrators of phishing and other email scams rely on the greed and fear of their victims, dangling unbelievable offers or warning of account closures or jail time if action is not taken. Before you jump at the offer, take a step back and think for a minute. Is the offer being made reasonable, or does it seem too good to be true?

Whether you work for a large corporation, a small business or for yourself, you rely on email to get your work done and communicate with those around you. By turning this valuable tool against their victims, the creators of phishing scams do enormous damage, forcing recipients to doubt the authenticity of every message in their inbox.

If you want to enjoy the convenience of email without the fear and danger, learning to spot phishing is a good place to start. These scams and schemes take many different forms, but they do have some things in common, including the classic warning signs listed above. When it comes to fighting phishing, forewarned is forearmed, and the more you know the easier it will be to spot the imposters.

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