How to recognize online scams and phishing?

Last updated December 6th, 2023 06:06

How to recognize online scams and phishing? Online scams have become increasingly common in recent times. They involve fraudulent theft of confidential data, unauthorized access, payments, and investments in nonexistent companies or organizations. Online scams usually involve emails or SMS messages that attempt to appear as if they originate from reliable sources. They often include logos of well-known companies, banking institutions, or even public institutions.

This phenomenon is known as phishing, and like any electronic fraud, it operates deceptively, making it difficult for a layperson to detect. This is especially true in cases where you are unaware of how scammers operate.

However, there are certain characteristics that can help identify when a message or request is illegal and dangerous. Recognizing such a situation is therefore a crucial step in protecting your safety in the online world.

How to recognize online scams and phishing?

Jak poznat online podvody a phishing?

The first signs that something is wrong.

The email you receive often puts you in a time crunch. You must act quickly, or else you risk losing data or certain services. Phishing emails often contain messages designed to create a sense of urgency and anxiety in the customer, urging them to act quickly, but often hastily.

The most common signs of such emails are:

  • Expiration of a service and its possible cancellation
  • Emails that warn of an unpaid amount for a service
  • Messages that warn you of your account being blocked
  • Winning a lottery or other online service

You should be wary especially when the subject of the email contains exclamation marks, words in all capital letters, urgent invitations, or even orders to act quickly. Moreover, such emails are often written in very poor, “broken” English and contain numerous grammatical errors.

Emails that request personal information or payments.

Phishing emails almost always contain a call to action and usually request sensitive information such as passwords, usernames, bank details, and even credit card numbers. Remember: no bank, company, or manager will ask you to provide sensitive data via email. Be very careful if such a situation occurs.

Emails contain a large number of grammatical errors and typos.

Although the content and format of phishing emails are becoming more precise, they often contain grammatical, spelling, or syntactical errors that can raise suspicion about the authenticity of such a message. A strange tone in the wording and form of the email can often be enough to trigger warning signals that something is wrong.

Unexpected emails.

If you have recently made a payment for a service and you currently do not have any known services that are due to expire or if the service fee is different than usual, be careful of emails that suggest checks of your accounts or any other actions related to the content of such messages. Scammers are very good at predicting which messages might be of interest to you, but they usually cannot time such messages correctly.

If you have any doubts, verify first with a reliable source whether the email is genuine. A phone call to your bank or the company that actually provides the service, or checking your online account, could be enough to get the answers you are looking for. This will help you confirm whether the email was sent by the actual institution or not.

Emails with suspicious attachments.

If you receive any attachments with these unexpected emails, you should be even more careful. Never open or download such attachments to your computer, especially if they are .exe, .vsb, .js, or .bat files. Scammers often use fraudulent email attachments to send malware or viruses. Such software can run on the background of the operating system in your computer without letting you know. It can monitor your work and intercept private information that you enter, for example, into your web browser. In worse cases, such software can encrypt the content of your hard drive, and you can only get the decryption key by sending a certain amount of Bitcoins to the attacker’s wallet. If you do not have a backup of your data, you have likely lost your data permanently.

How to recognize online scams and phishing? Always carefully check the email address of the sender.

If you’re not sure, always check the email header where you can find the true sender of the message. This will show you the sender’s address, which will most likely have a completely different domain than the institution the message was supposed to come from. Viewing the email header is now possible with practically every email client and webmail. It’s key to being able to recognize the true sender at first glance. This step is therefore very important in determining a fraudulent email.

In addition, there are many online tools available for analyzing email headers, such as

Emails with suspicious addresses and links.

Very often, suspicious emails contain buttons that redirect you to websites that look very similar or even identical to those of the company or service that the sender of the phishing email is pretending to be. Such websites will in most cases prompt you to enter sensitive information such as login and password, credit card number, and many others. To easily verify whether the web address in the button is safe, simply hover your mouse cursor over the button or URL without clicking on it. Usually, the complete target address to which the link leads is displayed next to the cursor or at the bottom of the page. From such an address, you can usually immediately tell that something is not right. Always make sure to check the main domain. For example:

Correct URL address of your bank:
Suspicious URL address:

So, always make sure to verify the actual domain used by your bank or institution, which the scammer pretends to be.

How to Recognize Online Scams and Phishing? Conclusion

If you are unsure about the content of an email you receive, don’t hesitate to contact the institution in question by phone to inquire whether the email is really from them or if it’s spam. Usually, you’ll receive a clear answer right away whether the email is legitimate or not. Such a phone call will only take a few minutes of your time, but it can save you a lot of money or trouble with the loss of data or identity.

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