Chances are you have received one before, a phishing email. It is a popular tactic among attackers because it is cheap, efficient, and effective. In this article, we elaborate on how to recognize mail phishing.

Meaning mail phishing

Mail phishing, also known as email phishing, is a form of cyber attack in which scammers use misleading emails to obtain personal information. These emails appear to come from trusted sources, such as banks, companies, or government agencies. The aim of mail phishing is to trick people into responding with sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card information, or personal identification numbers (PINs).

There are different types of mail phishing attacks used to trick people. A common form is “spear phishing“, in which the attacker targets specific individuals or organizations. This often involves the use of personalized information to make the message believable. Another form is “pharming“, where the attacker tries to fake legitimate websites to steal login credentials. Also common is “clone phishing”, in which a previously received and legitimate e-mail is copied and modified to deceive people.

Risks and consequences

Mail phishing can cause serious harm to victims. It can lead to financial loss, identity theft, and invasion of privacy. By providing personal information to the attackers, they can use it for fraudulent activities, such as opening bank accounts, applying for loans, or committing other forms of identity fraud.

Well-known cases where people have fallen victim to mail phishing include receiving emails claiming to be from well-known banks and asking for confidential information. This has caused people to lose their savings or empty their bank accounts. There are also cases where emails with fake prizes have tricked people into providing personal details, leading to identity theft and financial losses.

Recognizing mail phishing

It is important to be able to recognize mail phishing attacks to protect yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Check the sender: Look out for suspicious or different e-mail addresses that may indicate a forged sender. Often the difference is in a single letter or number.
  • Language and tone of the message: Look out for bad language, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or unusual sentence structures. Be alert to messages that require urgent action, seem too good to be true, or contain threatening language.
  • Check the link: Hover over the link without clicking on it to check the destination. Look out for anomalous URLs that may lead you to fake websites.
  • Be careful with attachments: Avoid opening attachments in suspicious emails, especially attachments with unusual file types, such as .exe files.
  • Verify the information: If you receive an e-mail from an organization you do business with, contact the organization directly using its official contact details to verify the legitimacy of the message.

What to do if you are a victim of mail phishing?

To protect yourself from mail phishing, there are several measures and best practices. For instance, it is important to create awareness around cyber security. In addition, you should use strong passwords and only share sensitive information with verified recipients.

In the event that you have fallen victim to mail phishing, follow these steps:

  • Report the incident: Contact your bank, the organization from which the message appeared to originate, and the relevant authorities to report the incident.
  • Change passwords: Immediately change the passwords of the affected accounts and use strong and unique passwords.
  • Check accounts: Check bank accounts, credit card statements, and other important accounts for suspicious activity. Report any suspicious transactions immediately.
  • Learn from the incident: Analyse what happened and identify weaknesses in your security to prevent future incidents.

Simply because a link says you are going to a specific location does not mean it actually is. Check all URLs before clicking on them. You may be sent to a site you don’t want to visit. How to test this without being at risk? By moving your mouse over the link, a small bar will appear with the destination URL. Here, watch out for any form of typosquatting. Never trust a hyperlink with an incorrect URL or one that does not seem to fit the context of the e-mail.

FAQ Email-phishing

What is the difference between spam and mail phishing?

Ordinary spam e-mails are unwanted messages that often contain commercial content, such as advertisements. Mail phishing, on the other hand, aims to trick recipients into revealing personal information, such as passwords, credit card details, or login details, by posing as a trustworthy entity.