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No Offence to Anglers but Phishing is Not a Sport…

Ever had an exciting e-mail land in your inbox? Is it real? Is it safe? Sally Davies shares the tricks phishers use to stop you getting caught.

Ok, so who thought I’d spelt fishing wrong?  I haven’t. Phishing is a different “hobby” altogether. For those who have never heard of the word, simply put, it is an email (or similar) that is trying to trick you into handing over your personal information, especially user names, passwords and banking details.  A lot of phishing emails are sent around Christmas time but to be honest, they are common anytime because criminals work all year round. They’re nice like that.

We all like to think that we are smart but even the smartest of us can fall foul of this criminal behavior. It’s just too easy. Many of these emails can look very realistic. I tend to receive one phishing email at least once per week. Luckily, I am yet to be conned by one because I follow a few simple rules. These rules I will share with you now. (Drum-roll please).

  1. Check who it’s from.

Seems obvious.  As mentioned in my previous post (have a read), always check who the email is from by clicking on the “from” address. If it does not look like an official email address, get rid and click on nothing.

  1. Look to see if it includes links.

Does the email have any kind of link for you to click on? This could be just a text link (underlined) or a button asking you to verify your details. The button itself may tempt you. Official companies will never ask you to verify your details via email. So what do you do? Yes, you guessed it, ignore and get rid!

  1. Check the destination website of any link.

If you are on a laptop, hover your mouse over a link and you will see its destination website address at the bottom of your screen, usually in the bottom left hand corner.  You can use your common sense to see if it looks official or not. If suspicious still, you can find out the real company’s website address by googling it separately anyway.

  1. Does it ask for bank details or personal information?

Just don’t. EVER.

  1. Look how it’s written.

What is the spelling and grammar like? If I receive an email that is poorly written, even if it is from a genuine company, I won’t do business with them. Poor spelling and grammar is unprofessional (she says hoping that this blog is error free). Many scam emails are written very badly. A big tell-tale sign.

  1. Look at the greeting line.

How do they address you? If they greet you as “Dear Customer”, why? If you truly are a  valued customer of theirs then they already know your name so should be using it. Also, the amount of emails which I receive that start with “Dear customer”… don’t even get me started on these!

  1. How urgent does it sound?

Oh no, your Apple account will be locked if you don’t act soon.  You must confirm your details asap. Perhaps PayPal has detected “suspicious activity” on your account so you simply must verify your details by just clicking on this button below… DON’T! If you are unsure, log into your REAL account using the REAL website and you’ll find absolutely nothing wrong with it at all. Funny that.

  1. Check the branding.

Look at the quality of its branding within the email, that is, if it includes logos etc. These can look blurry or just copied and pasted from elsewhere into their emails to you. Look at the placement of them too. Compare them with the real company logo.

  1. How “official” is it?

Do they mention the word “official” within their email. Is it all a bit officially O.T.T? These fraudsters think that by shoehorning that word into their email will actually make it look more official when in fact, it does the opposite. Real companies really don’t need to push this word at all.

  1. And finally…does it sound too good to be true?

It is. Enough said.
Hopefully my top 10 rules make sense to you.  I also hope that by reading this your newfound lack of trust in emails won’t deter you from the genuine ones or make you lose faith in humanity! Email really is a great form of communication and not everyone is a criminal. Maybe I’m just too cynical for my own good, but, I like to spread my cynical wisdom around.
My final words to you all this week – don’t get hooked on phishing…(see what I did there? I’m here all week)
Until next time, STAY SAFE.

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The author

Sally has a long history of working in schools and education. She has always been heavily involved in IT as a subject area in her 15 years of teaching and leadership roles but now, no longer a teacher, she focuses solely in getting the e-safety message across to students, staff, parents and the community. She now provides workshops and assemblies to students, briefings to parents and community groups and inset and twilight training for staff. She also provides 1:1 IT skills tutoring to those who require that extra boost to their skills. In her e-safety role, she covers a variety of areas including the following and more: The changes and trends over the last few years, Understanding cyberbullying the media used and its impact upon our children, Understanding grooming, the media used and the signs to look for, Understanding sexting, it’s platforms, the laws surrounding it and the consequences, Understanding what the digital footprint is and what not to do, The technologies our young people use (online gaming including Roblox, social media including snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, twitter, YouTube, live streaming, Tik Tok and more), The laws and consequences of actions, How to broach the subject with our children, How to keep our children on the safest path

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