How to recognize phishing email messages or links
Phishing email messages are designed to steal your personal information. They ask your to respond with account information, or direct you to websites where they ask you to provide personal data. A few clues can help you spot fraudulent email messages or links within them.
Did you submit your username and password? Follow these steps ASAP to recover your account
NEVER FORGET: It is easy to spoof the From: address in an email.
Does the From: address match the Reply-to: address (if not, beware)
Phishing emails often start out “your account has been used to send spam” or “we are doing maintenance on our webmail system” – then they ask that you reply with your username and password. There will never be a reason to give anyone your password by email – honestly.
What does a phishing email message look like?
They might appear to come from Williams, your bank or financial institution, a company you regularly do business with, or from your social networking site.
They might include official-looking logos and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate websites, and they might include convincing details about your personal history that scammers found on your social networking pages.
They might include links to spoofed websites where you are asked to enter personal information.
Here are a few phrases that are commonly used in phishing email scams:
“Verify your account.”
Businesses should not ask you to send passwords, logon information or user names, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or other personal information through email.
If you receive an email message from Microsoft or any other business asking you to update your credit card information, do not respond: This is a phishing scam.
“You have won the lottery.”
The lottery scam is a common phishing scam known as advanced fee fraud. One of the most common forms of advanced fee fraud is a message that claims that you have won a large sum of money, or that a person will pay you a large sum of money for little or no work on your part. The lottery scam often includes references to big companies, such as Microsoft. There is no Microsoft Lottery. For more information, see What is the Microsoft Lottery scam?
“If you don’t respond within 48 hours, your account will be closed.”
These messages convey a sense of urgency so that you’ll respond immediately without thinking. A phishing email message might even claim that your response is required because your account might have been compromised.
What does a phishing link look like?
Sometimes phishing email messages direct you to spoofed websites.
HTML-formatted messages can contain links or forms that you can fill out just as you would fill out a form on a legitimate website.
Phishing links that you are urged to click in email messages, on websites, or even in instant messages, may contain all or part of a real company’s name and are usually masked, meaning that the link you see does not take you to that address but somewhere different, usually an illegitimate website.
In most mail clients resting (but not clicking) your mouse pointer on a link reveals the real web address. A string cryptic numbers is a suspicious sign.
Example of a masked web address.
Cybercriminals also use web addresses that resemble the names of well-known companies but are slightly altered by adding, omitting, or transposing letters. For example, the address “www.microsoft.com” could appear instead as:
This is called “typo-squatting” or “cybersquatting.”
For more information about phishing, see Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself.