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Beware of online phishing: Here are a few tips to identify phishing websites and emails

We are in an era where we perform most of our tasks online - like ordering food or paying bills. While the internet has made our lives remarkably simpler and convenient, it has also exposed us to newer threats. The latest one is identity theft, which, is often called the crime of the new millennium.

Identity theft is the act of stealing your personal information for monetary gains. As per a report by Securitas, 19 people fall victim to this fraud every minute.

One of the most common ways to steal someone’s personal information is by phishing. Let us read about it in detail.

What is phishing?

Phishing gets its name from ‘fishing’ because the fraudsters are fishing to steal the victim’s personal information. Cyber criminals throw the bait by sending fake emails from reputable entities or people. You must have received several such emails from public organisations. The email may ask you to confirm your personal information on the pretext of giving you a job offer or an equally attractive proposition. The email may also contain an embedded link or an attachment.

Phishing also happens through fake websites that try to imitate legitimate addresses.

How to identify phishing emails?

• The email looks suspicious - Cyber criminals try their best to make these emails look authentic. However, the simplest way to recognise these emails is by looking at their content. Is it asking you to do something that you weren’t expecting? Like sharing your bank account details or login credentials.

• The email does not seem genuine - Fraudsters go to great lengths to ensure that these emails look legitimate. However, you can quickly notice the irregularities with a little probing. They try to include names of organisations in their email ids or web addresses. If you take a moment to see, you will realise that they are invalid addresses. For example - you may notice the email id to be apple@gmail.com or jobs.apple@yahoo.com. Any legitimate email from Apple would contain the domain name @apple.com.

• The email is poorly worded - More often than not, these emails have poorly structured sentences. You may also notice spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Any official communication from a reputed organisation gets thoroughly checked for such mistakes. Another line of thought is that these emails are purposely written like that to trick vulnerable people.

• The email may create panic - Sometimes fraudsters send emails stating that your bank details are hacked. They ask you to confirm your details as it is the only way to protect yourself. It is advisable to contact your bank instead of replying to such emails.

• The email may contain an attachment - If you open these attachments, you may risk downloading a trojan or a virus on your computer. It is recommended always to update and use anti-virus software to detect any malicious content.

How to identify phishing websites?

Fake websites generally have an incorrect spelling in the web address or an insecure connection. You may also notice the information on the home page is not in sync with the original website.

Conclusion

Before clicking on any suspicious attachment or link, ask yourself if you were expecting that email. If your answer is negative, it is mostly a phishing email. You may try contacting the sender through other means in case of any doubt.