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How to Identify Spam and Phishing Emails


Out of all the email messages you get throughout the workday, how many of them are spam messages or malicious emails from hackers trying to get at your credentials? You don’t need us to tell you that spam and phishing emails are a serious problem, but sometimes they can be a bit difficult to identify—especially to the untrained or uninformed eye. Let’s go over some of the telltale signs of spam and phishing emails, as well as how you should react to them.

Signs of Spam and Phishing Messages

First, we should get this out of the way; spam messages and phishing messages are similar, but in the end are two entirely different things. Spam messages are often blanket messages that go out to hundreds of thousands of people with the intention of either wasting your time or getting people to click on them.

Phishing emails, on the other hand, are a bit trickier to identify. Phishing emails are designed to take advantage of unknowing users by convincing them to hand over credentials, click on links within emails, or hand over other sensitive information. Phishing emails do this by impersonating trusted organizations like government agencies, banks, businesses, etc. Phishing emails often include:

  • Spelling errors in the message
  • Suspicious sender addresses
  • A sense of urgency, like claiming a prize in a sweepstakes or paying a bill

Spear phishing in particular can be a devastating threat. Phishing emails might be designed to be more broad in scope, whereas spear phishing are targeted efforts at a particular individual. These messages might include personal greetings or personalized information that make the user trust the sender more than with your typical phishing message.

What Should You Do?

If you suspect that you have received spam or phishing emails, you can report them to your IT resource. Chances are that the message circumvented your protections and managed to hit your inbox somehow, so the IT resource will likely block the IP address or email address and quarantine the message off. Whatever you do, do not click on links in the email or respond to it until you are certain of the nature of the email.

Of course, it could also be the case that the message is, in fact, not spam or phishing. Depending on the sender’s email habits, they may have made their message look like one of these emails unintentionally. You can reach out to the sender via an alternative method of outreach, like a phone call, to confirm that it was them who sent the message. When in doubt, always practice caution.

If this seems like a lot to keep an eye out for, don’t worry—most spam and phishing emails can be blocked thanks to comprehensive security solutions like those that Network Solutions Unlimited offers. We can implement a unified threat management tool that can block spam messages, prevent threats from accessing your network, and keep your employees from accessing harmful or dangerous content on the web. Don’t wait any longer! Get started with a UTM today by calling us at (217) 428-6449.

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