Phishing email scams cost US businesses an estimated $1.8 billion in 2020 according to the FBI. This figure is nearly half of the estimated $4.2 billion in losses reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and shows just how big the impact of phishing, especially business email compromise (BEC) scams, have on businesses.
This week’s theme for Cybersecurity Awareness Month is “Fight the Phish” and hopes to bring awareness as well as knowledge to help spot scams before losses occur. #BeCyberSmart
Besides some of the obvious red flags of poor grammar and misspellings, here are other things that you should be on the look-out for to spot scam emails.
Some of the favorite lures of cyber-criminals are subjects or phrasing like:
- “We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below, and confirm your identity.”
- “During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information.”
- “Our records indicate that your account was overcharged. You must call us within 7 days to receive your refund.”
- “Your account will be suspended unless … “
If you do receive a phishing email, you may want to report it to your organization’s IT or cybersecurity department. Also do not forward the email and most likely you will want to delete it.
Additional things to do to keep yourself safe from scammers:
- Play hard to get with strangers. Links in email and online posts are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If you’re unsure who an email is from—even if the details appear accurate—do not respond, and do not click on any links or attachments found in that email. Be cautious of generic greetings such as “Hello Bank Customer,” as these are often signs of phishing attempts. If you are concerned about the legitimacy of an email, call the company directly.
- Think before you act. Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately. Many phishing emails attempt to create a sense of urgency, causing the recipient to fear their account or information is in jeopardy. If you receive a suspicious email that appears to be from someone you know, reach out to that person directly on a separate secure platform. If the email comes from an organization but still looks “phishy,” reach out to them via customer service to verify the communication.
- Protect your personal information. If people contacting you have key details from your life—your job title, multiple email addresses, full name, and more that you may have published online somewhere—they can attempt a direct spear-phishing attack on you. Cyber criminals can also use social engineering with these details to try to manipulate you into skipping normal security protocols.
- Be wary of hyperlinks. Avoid clicking on hyperlinks in emails and hover over links to verify authenticity. Also ensure that URLs begin with “https.” The “s” indicates encryption is enabled to protect users’ information.
- Double your login protection. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media, and any other service that requires logging in. If MFA is an option, enable it by using a trusted mobile device, such as your smartphone, an authenticator app, or a secure token—a small physical device that can hook onto your key ring.