Hackers can strike at any moment, and they prefer to attack through emails. These emails contain specific attachments that install a virus when an unsuspecting user clicks on them. They can also harbor trojans or other types of unwanted malware.
Phishing is another way hackers attack to attempt to gain sensitive information. This is where a user provides their personal information such as name, addresses, phone numbers, passwords, credit and debit card numbers etc. Many experts have warned against opening such emails. But how do we know if an email has been delivered with malicious intent?
Spam filters do their job well, but it pays to know how to protect yourself against such emails. Here’s what you should do before opening your emails.
1. Pay Attention to Outlook Warning Messages
Outlook (and even some web browsers) can see whether an email is a potential phishing attempt. The emails usually take the form of a reputable company or organization, such as the IRS or a bank.
The email may look official but it’s not. If the content within the email looks too good to be true, it probably is. You might see the official logo of the company but with technology at hackers’ disposal, it’s easy to get the official logos for companies and incorporate them into an email.
The real problem lies within the links placed in the email. A strategy to see whether it’s a phishing attempt is to hover over the link but do not click it. The bottom left of the page shows the actual site you will be taken to if the link were to be clicked. If the URL displayed looks suspicious, delete the email from your inbox and block the sender. It’s also a good idea to take a screenshot as evidence before you delete it from your trash folder.
2. Scrutinize the Email
Does the email look suspicious? If you’re not be expecting an email from the sender, you should carefully examine the email’s subject line, body and any links or attachments. Remember, do not click on any attachments or links if you are unsure of where the link came from.
If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS without you initiating the conversation, this is your first red flag. The IRS does not initiate contact with anyone by email requesting information. The email could be phishing or worse, stubborn malware.
Hackers and scammers modify real IRS letters, so make sure to double check the legitimacy of what you receive. It’s likely you’ll be able to tell if it is a fake by comparison.
3. Corrective Action and Urgency
Remember the screenshot you took earlier of the email? Send it to the IRS so they have the information to tackle the issue. Something is not right if you are being pushed to log in, provide your PIN, passwords, address or other form of sensitive information. Statements like “log in immediately, before…” or “there’s a penalty if you don’t…” and others are just there to scare you into clicking the link they’ve placed in the email.
It’s important for you to not give in to such tactics. If you’re ever unsure, just don’t click. It’s always best to reach out to the IRS, or the potential impersonated organization, to ask if they sent the communication or not.
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