How to Detect Scam Emails and Block Odd Senders

May. 7, 2020

1:44AM PST

The worldwide outbreak of Coronavirus has caused a massive influx of internet scammers sending out phishing emails to the general public. Google recently stated that they have been blocking approximately 100 million phishing emails every day. That is an outstanding and concerning number, which leads experts to believe that COVID-19 may now be the biggest email phishing topic ever to have existed. Cybercriminals are sending out mass amounts of emails posing as companies who are trying to encourage individuals to donate to pandemic-related causes or pretending to be government institutions in an attempt to capitalize on the increase of unemployment benefits applications. With the news of the pandemic being an opportunity for scammers, it’s more important now than ever to make sure that you are fully protected online.

Cybercriminals use phishing as a way to gather personal or sensitive information from an individual, often through false emails that appear to be legitimate. There are some best practices to use when avoiding phishing emails, but in order to ensure that you are protecting yourself online, it’s also important to understand how to detect scam emails and, if you do detect a scammer, how to block them so they are unable to reach your inbox.

The primary issue with previously discussed best practices for detecting scams is that fake emails are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish from the real deal. Oftentimes, cybercriminals have become so practiced that an unwarranted phishing email is almost unrecognizable, particularly to the average person or an untrained eye. Scam emails will use the company's logo and will present the content to look almost identical to one that would come from the company itself. However, there are usually a few telltale giveaways to look out for. For example, an email that uses a generic name instead of addressing you directly or one which asks you to follow a link to fill out personal information are signs that something is amiss.

There are also measures you can take by changing the settings of your email to make it easier to spot malicious practices. A simple best practice to implicate is to employ but very helpful is to disable the HTML setting on your email platform. HTML essentially embeds links in an email so that the URL is disguised or hidden. Scammers will often trick recipients by embedding a link to disguise a fake website or pop-up. By disabling the HTML setting, you can see the URL you are clicking on, which ensures the link you are following is taking you to the webpage you were intending on visiting.

What happens if you discover a scam email?

The simplest thing to do if you think that a cybercriminal is trying to scam you is to block the sender to disallow any further emails from the same source from coming into your inbox. The benefit of some third-party email security platforms is that they contain whitelisting and blacklisting options which allow you to easily determine which senders you would like to allow emails from, and which senders you want to ensure cannot reach your inbox. If you do discover a phishing email, it is also a best practice to notify your email provider so that they can further investigate and potentially put a stop to the cybercriminals behind the scam.

If trusting yourself to spot a scam email isn’t quite enough security for you, there are extra steps you can take to catch phishing. In order to increase your security, it’s a good idea to download a program that can intricately filter out potential scam emails. Because cybercriminals are now so proficient in creating content that looks almost unrecognizable as illegitimate, relying on your own ability to catch a scammer can be unreliable. These third-party email security platforms prevent any potential scams from reaching your inbox, so there is a significantly decreased likelihood of a phishing email showing up for you to read. Third-party programs that search your incoming mail (and sometimes your inbox as well) are the most efficient way to make sure your online security is being adequately protected.

Resources

https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780128001103/detecting-and-combating-malicious-email

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