How to Spot A Phishing Scam (Top Tips)

A phishing scam is a fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Phishing scams are usually carried out via email or instant messaging, and often direct victims to enter personal information on a fake website that imitates the look and feel of a legitimate one. Scammers may also try to trick victims into downloading malware onto their devices.

Fraudsters change tactics often hoping you’ll give them your personal information. Just one click on a link to a fake website can give them your login and password.

Once they get you, they can get control of your email, bank account, and more.

1-2% of all emails are phishing scams, which means a lot of people are at risk of getting phishing scam emails on a very regular basis.

Here are some signs to look for:

High-pressure language; scare tactics

Fraudsters will often use high-pressure language to get you to do something.

For example, an email may say your account will be suspended unless you take action immediately.

Generic greeting such as “Dear valued customer”

Since fraudsters send out many of these emails at once, these messages are often generic and not personalized, as more and more companies are doing.

Requests for personal information

Fraudsters may try to get you to share sensitive information, like your password or account details.

They might do this by asking you to click on a link that takes you to a fake website that looks real. Or they may ask you directly for this information.

Poor spelling and grammar

Scammers often use poor spelling and grammar in their communications. This can be a sign that the message is not legitimate.

Unusual sender address

The message might come from an email address or web domain that looks similar to a trusted source, but with a slight change.

For example, the email might come from “support@amaz0n.com” instead of “support@amazon.com.”

Attachments or links to download

The message might contain an attachment or link that you are asked to download.

These files can contain viruses that will infect your computer or device.

Links to a spoofed website that looks legitimate

They may also try to send you to a spoofed website that looks legitimate but isn’t.

Urgent request for action

These requests for action are often made under the pretense of urgency.

For example, the message might say that your account will be suspended unless you take action immediately.

Unfamiliar alerts that you don’t remember signing up for

If you see any of these signs, do not respond to the message and delete it immediately.

Do not click on any links or attachments. If you are not sure if a message is legitimate, contact the company directly using a trusted email address or phone number.

How to Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from phishing scams:

Never click on links or open attachments in emails or messages from unknown senders

If you’re not sure if an email is legitimate, contact the company directly through their official website or customer service number.

Be suspicious of any email or message with a urgent request for action

Never give out personal information like account passwords, social security numbers, or credit card information unless you are sure the recipient is legitimate.

Keep your software and virus protection up to date

This will help protect your devices from malware that scammers may try to send you.

Report phishing scams

If you think you have been a victim of a phishing scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. You can also report phishing emails to the company, bank, or organization that the email is pretending to be from.

This article provides general information about phishing scams. For more specific information about how to protect yourself from and report phishing scams, please see the resources below.

When in doubt, don’t click, don’t reply, don’t respond

If you want to know more, call the company using contact information on their website.

If the email looks like it’s from your bank or another company, don’t use the contact information in the email. Instead, find their customer service number on their website or give them a call.

Scam Emails and How to Detect Them

FAQs – How to Spot A Phishing Scam

What is phishing?

Phishing is a type of online fraud where scammers try to trick you into giving them personal information or money.

They do this by sending emails or messages that look like they’re from a company or website you trust, but are actually from the scammer.

What should I do if I think I’ve been phished?

If you think you’ve been phished, don’t click on any links or open any attachments in the message. Do not reply to the message either. If you’re not sure if the message is legitimate, contact the company directly using a trusted email address or phone number. You can also report phishing scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

What are some common signs of a phishing scam?

There are several signs that a message may be a phishing scam:

  • The message is from an unknown sender
  • The message contains grammatical errors or misspellings
  • The message has a sense of urgency
  • The message asks for personal information
  • The message contains attachments or links to download

These are just some common examples. For more specific information about how to protect yourself from and report phishing scams, please see the resources below.

What can I do to protect myself from phishing scams?

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from phishing scams:

Never click on links or open attachments in emails or messages from unknown senders

If you’re not sure if an email is legitimate, contact the company directly through their official website or customer service number.

Be suspicious of any email or message with an urgent request for action

Never give out personal information like account passwords, social security numbers, or credit card information unless you are sure the recipient is legitimate.

Keep your software and virus protection up to date

This will help protect your devices from malware that scammers may try to send you.

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