How Can I Identify a Phishing Website or Email

The technical answer to the question “What is a phishing website” is that it is a malicious website which tries to trick users into handing over confidential information. While this may be useful to know, it isn’t necessarily a great deal of help to anyone trying to stay safe on the internet so let’s try looking at the question from a different perspective.

What is a Phishing Website and How it Works and How to Prevent it?

The practical answer to the question “What is a phishing website” is that it is a website set up to steal your identity, or at least part of it. It does this by trying to convince you that it is a legitimate website, which needs those details to perform an action from which you will benefit.

The bad news is that phishing websites are now one of the most common scams on the internet. The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to keep yourself safe from them. Here is a quick guide to help.

What is a Phishing Website

1.Security software is your first line of defense

Invest in a reputable anti-malware product with an integrated firewall for both your computers and your mobile devices. A good firewall will probably catch the majority of links to phishing websites. It is, however, useful to know how to spot the tell-tale signs of a phishing website in case one slips past it.

Please be aware that none of these indicators is necessarily a foolproof way to tell whether or not a site is a phishing website but usually you can look at them in combination to get a very good idea.

2.Check your emails carefully before you even think about clicking on a link

Scammers who run phishing websites will often approach people through email to try to persuade them to click on a link that will take them to a phishing website. There are three common giveaways that an email is being used as part of a phishing scam.

The email address doesn’t match the purported sender. When you set up an email address, you choose what name you want to be displayed. This is very convenient but it also opens up possibilities for scammers to take advantage of people who are short on time. What’s more, it can be hard to see the full email address on a mobile device.

It is, however, important to make the effort because if you do you will catch a lot of phishing emails very easily by the fact that they claim to be from a brand company but use a free email address.

Speaking of emails, phishing emails will generally use your email or a generic greeting instead of your name. They will also tend to claim that some form of urgent action is required.

3.Check links thoroughly before you decide whether or not to click on them

If you’ve done all of the checks mentioned above and are still not sure whether or not an email is legitimate, or, if all you have is a link, then there’s still a lot of checking you can and should do before you decide whether or not to click on it.

Take a good look at the link you are being asked to click and only that link. Be aware fraudsters sometimes mix real links with fake ones. For example, they might reference their privacy policy and send you to the real company’s privacy policy to reassure you.

If the link contains any strange characters, then it is probably a phishing link. The strange characters are a sign of URL encoding, in other words, disguising the real address. If the link is embedded or shortened, then it is also probably a phishing link. Use a decoder or expander to check the real address.

4.Be careful of pop-ups requesting your information

If you get to a site and see a pop-up requesting your information then be very suspicious. Sometimes scammers direct you to a real website but use a malicious pop-up to get your information. They may have placed the pop-up on the site by buying advertising space through a third-party agency. This strategy is known as malvertising.

5.See if a site implements HTTPS

The presence or absence of HTTPS is often given as a sign of security and it is to an extent. The problem is that implementing HTTPS slows down a site (albeit only slightly) so even legitimate companies often only implement it on key pages, such as login pages. What’s more, it’s actually fairly easy (and free) to implement HTTPS at a basic level, so it’s becoming more common for fraudsters to use it to convince people that a site is secure when it isn’t.

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