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Email Security: Common Email Scams And How To Avoid Them

Email scams have been around almost as long as email itself. And while most people would say they were aware of the typical scams, estimates suggest that over 60% of people will get caught out by a rogue link or email at some point.

And as we all know, it only takes one email scam to do the damage to your entire network.

Following on from our phishing blog, we go into more depth about some of the tactics used in email scams.

Address masking

What is it?

The scammer will try to hide a fraudulent email address by changing the email display name to something familiar to you (a person within your business, a known company etc). They may even have adopted a person’s picture or a company logo as well on the email.

How to spot it?

Within Outlook and Gmail, you can click the display name to see the email address that a message has come from. If it doesn’t look right, call the person or company to check it’s legitimate.

Here’s an example of address masking for PayPal:

You’d pay attention to a PayPal Payment email, but you’d likely recognise that that address was not legitimate.

You don’t necessarily have time to question every piece of correspondence, but if an email is:

  • Requesting a payment
  • Requires you to enter account details or passwords
  • Asking you to download something
  • Reveal any other personal details

Then it is worth double checking that the request is coming from who you think it is.

Address spoofing

What is it?

Similar to address masking, address spoofing will use an email address that looks very similar to another familiar address. This can happen with individuals but more often happens with companies or brands where you’re likely to have an account linked to money, such as banks, Apple or PayPal.

In the case of PayPal for example, we’ve seen examples of emails coming from @paypall.com, @palpay.com or @payypal.com.

Links may then go to a cloned login page. Once you’ve entered your details, those running email scams then have your login details.

How to spot it?

In the same way as address masking, if an email is trying to get you to click a link, enter details or make a payment be wary.

The content of the email will usually contain a tone of urgency, such as a payment needing to be made or an account being suspended – something to get you worried and act before without thinking.

Link Scams

What is it?

A fraudulent email will attempt to get you to click on a link to something you suspect is fine but may not be what you expect. Often these links will try to introduce malware to your PC or phone.

This tactic is often used when an email or social media account is compromised. The scammer will create a generic but engaging message and get all of that person’s contacts to click the links.

How to spot it?

There’s usually a tell-tale sign that it’s not the usual sender – the grammar will be different (often more punctuation or emojis) and the email may appear in plain text where it has previously included logos or a designed footer.

Hovering over a link or button will reveal the hyperlink that it’s pointing to. Here’s an example we’ve made:

Fraudulent links may point to addresses with long strings of letters and numbers or even Cyrillic code (though it’s worth noting that some legitimate marketing links will look like this as a result of  activity tracking code). They can also point to spoof domains as well (www.paypall.com as an example).

If in doubt about the authenticity of an email or a link, Akita customers can always refer emails to us to check.

Companies looking to improve staff training around email security should consider undertaking the Government’s Cyber Essentials training. Akita can assist companies with this – please get in touch for more information.