By Dr. Tracey Parrish
It’s really a shame when the email you think you are getting from a reputable company could actually be a fake one that is an attempt to get your confidential information. This practice is known as Phishing or sending Phishing Emails.
Most recently, my mother received a phishing email that she thought was from Bank of America. It had the look and feel of an official Bank of America email in that it had a logo, a message requesting her to take an action and some legal jargon at the bottom of the page. If she had been rushing and just skimming her email, like she normally does, she would have clicked the link that was included in the message and would have started something that could have led to a really bad situation. Luckily, I have been hammering the point to my mother that things are not always as they seem, and she knew NOT TO CLICK ON LINKS IN EMAILS.
Computer programmers who create phishing emails are smart enough to know how to download a company’s logo, they know how to write a message that appears to be ‘official’, and they know that you are good at taking action when told to. All of this is causing havoc to companies that really are trying to do business with you.
Here are some tips to avoid falling prey to phishing emails:
- Read your emails. Take time to read the message and see if it makes sense and would be something the company would actually send to you. Usually there are red flags that should pop out to you, for example, misspelled words, your name is not being used, and the message may be asking for information that you know the company already has.
- Check the return address. When you ‘right click’ on the sender’s name, it should show you the email address that was used to send the email to you. If you do not see an email address that is related to the company, it’s not a good sign.
- Is the logo real? If you hover (let your mouse touch the logo, but do not click it) over the logo, it will show you the link that it is tied to. Most official logos will take you to the company homepage, so the link should have the company name in it.
- Check the link. Even as I tell you this, I still want you to be cautious and safe and would prefer you not to click any links in emails. If you hover over the link it will provide the URL or website that the link will take you to. Once again, the link should contain some reference to the company that you think is sending you the message.
The bottom line is that the people who are creating these phishing emails are getting very smart and it’s getting harder to identify phishing emails from official ones. I encourage you to be safe and go directly to the company website. If you were sent a message, there will be a copy of the message on the company website. If you were asked to update your contact information, check a statement, process a payment, or any type of request that requires submitting confidential information, you can also do it safely on the company website.
Dr. Tracey Parrish manages Technology Development Programs for a large technology company. As a technology fanatic, she has a desire and passion for educating others on utilizing technology to make their personal and professional lives more productive.