How to Spot Spoof Emails
With email spoofing on the rise and cyber criminals using new and innovative ways to get access to your personal information, it is important to know what signs to look out for to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
What is Emailing Spoofing?
Email spoofing is common in cyber-crime where a criminal impersonates another company to gain access to the victim’s personal information. Cyber criminals will send their target an email that appears as though it’s from an ‘actual’ company, usually asking for some type of personal or sensitive information. As the email tends to look legitimate and professional at first sight, it will often encourage the victim to adhere to their requests.
However, there are a few signs to look out for that will help you to spot potential spoof emails to avoid becoming a victim of cyber-crime.
Examples of Spoofing
You may receive an email which looks like it is from your bank, informing you that your account will close unless you verify some personal details. Due to the consequence of your account shutting down if you do not comply, you often feel obliged to. This is a common example of email spoofing.
Spoofing can also happen within an organisation and a high-profile, social media platform previously became a victim to this. An employee received an email from their CEO, asking for employee payroll data. The employee emailed the information across, to then discover that it was a spoof email. This sensitive data was leaked online, and employee identities were compromised.
What Warning Signs Should I Look Out For?
Often, spoofers will use generic email domains from free websites such as @hotmail.com, @gmail.com or @outlook.com. Legitimate companies will always use their company email address when sending you any form of communication. This is one of the biggest warning signs. Do not be fooled by the name that appears, always check the email address.
Companies will refer to you by your name as they have software to store your data and personalise emails when sending out emails in bulk. Spoof emails will usually refer to you as customer or by your email address name.
Personal Data Request
Companies will usually have all your data on record and will therefore not need to ask you for any more personal information. If an email is requesting any personal data, it is likely to be a spoof.
Urgency to ”Take Action”
Spoof emails will try and encourage you to “take action” immediately, so that you do not have time to think about it. A common example of this is ‘your direct debit will be cancelled if you do not update your card details immediately.’ Often, victims fear the consequence of not “taking action” and therefore they unknowingly submit. Always carefully read the text of the email and if it is pushing you to react immediately, see it as a warning sign that it is a spoof!
Never open any unknown attachments. Companies will not usually send attachments unless you are expecting them. Cyber criminals often use these attachments to try and get through the spam filters and send viruses so that they can hack your computer.
Some cyber criminals will even go to extreme lengths of creating a copycat website with a URL that seems almost identical to the real thing that it is almost impossible to spot. The new URL may replace S with 5 or replace a lower-case L with a capital i). Always examine the email address in fine detail.
Spelling and Grammar Errors
Spelling and grammar errors could be a sign of spoofing and therefore should be something to look out for. Companies usually have proof-readers to check these mistakes so legitimate emails are unlikely to contain any spelling or grammar mistakes.
Different ‘From’ Address to the ‘Reply To’ Address
If the ‘from’ email address looks legitimate it may be worth looking at the ‘reply to’ email address. If it is from an illegitimate source, the reply to the email address will usually be from a free domain website.
What Happens if I Become a Victim of Spoofing?
Depending on the extent of the attack, spoofing can have a detrimental impact on an individual and a business including:
- Leakage of personal/business information
- Identity theft
- Theft of financial information
- Harm to the infrastructure of the business
- Disruption to the running of the business
- Damaged business reputation
It is important to look out for the key indicators and identify any spoof emails and potential threats early on, preventing the risks of such attacks.
Is There Anything I Can Put in Place to Detect Spoof Emails?
Sometimes, your spam filter will detect these emails, identify them as spam or automatically direct them into your junk mail. Check that your spam filter is on.
Please note that this is just a guidance and cyber criminals may seek other methods of targeting. After following this guide, if you are still unsure of whether an email is a spoof, it is advised that you contact the company directly using the number/email address on their website.
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