6 tips to protect against suspicious emails

6 tips to protect against suspicious emails

Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending out mass emails (and now texts) using the identity of a financial institution or other reputable business to try and obtain your personal information.

With that information in their possession, they have all they need to steal your identity… and you wouldn’t wish that on your worst enemy!

Here is what could happen: you receive an email from your bank asking you to update your account by clicking on a link in the message. When you do, you are redirected to an exact replica of your bank’s website. After you enter your personal information, the scammers collect all those details and use them to empty your account.

How to avoid being scammed?

1. Verify the sender’s email address

Do you recognize it? Does it seem legitimate and relate to the content of the message received?

Also ask yourself if you were expecting the message or if it was requested?

2. Beware the hyperlink

Does an email or text contain a hyperlink to a website? Rather than click on it right away, glide the mouse curser over the link to confirm that the link seems aboveboard.

Fraudsters often use an Internet address that strongly resembles one that you know, give or take a few letters.

3. Don’t be fooled

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck… listen to your instincts if you receive a suspicious call-to-action message by email or text. Scammers want to goad you into replying to pilfer your personal information.

Here are some examples of messages that should raise red flags:

  • Your account will be suspended or closed if you do not update or change your password.
  • You need to validate an account that was targeted by fraud.
  • An attempt was made to hack your computer or smartphone.
  • You need to confirm that you can access a transactional website where there have been login issues.
  • You receive a notice to appear in court for a crime or fraud.

Sometimes, scammers reel you in by promising a tempting financial gain. For example:

  • A contest asking you to simply click on a hyperlink to claim a prize.
  • A message asking you to follow the links to receive money in your bank account.

In any case, resist the temptation and think twice before clicking on any hyperlink in a message.

4. Keep your private information just that… private

Never provide personal information by email or text:

  • Your first and last names
  • Your address
  • Your birthday
  • Your ID numbers
    • Driver’s licence
    • SIN
    • Bank account and PIN
    • Passport
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Your handwritten or electronic signature
  • Etc.

5. Devil in the details

Fraudsters are wizards at mimicking the logo and visual identity of a financial institution or other known company. They are so good it may be difficult to detect a difference from the real thing.

You have to use an eagle eye to examine the graphic details of a suspicious message received. Sometimes, the only difference between a fraudulent and legitimate email lies in the shade of colour they use.

6. Do your updates

Ensure your operating system is up to date and always take the time to upload any patches and updates.

An antivirus software is additional protection as long as it is regularly updated.

When in doubt…

Do not risk it. Hit delete!

What to do if you receive a message that looks suspicious?

  1. Do not click on the hyperlink in the message or on an image.
  2. Never, repeat never open an attached file.
  3. Do not reply to the sender. It will only validate your email address.

And if you ever do get phished?

It all depends on the fraudster’s intentions and what the grand scheme is after they gather your personal info.

Some consequences of getting phished include, among others, identify theft, malware installed on your device and spam sent to your contact list.