Have you ever gotten one of those emails that just seems a little too good to be true? You know the ones I’m talking about – claiming you won a contest you never entered or telling you a long-lost relative left you a fortune. As tempting as it is to believe them, those messages are likely phishing scams.

Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals try to steal your personal information by pretending to be a trustworthy source. They cast wide nets hoping to hook as many victims as possible. Once they reel someone in, they can steal logins, account numbers, money, and more. Phishing attacks have become increasingly common, so it’s important to recognize them and stay safe online.

In this post, we’ll break down the most common types of phishing and provide tips to avoid getting caught by these crafty scams. Let’s dive in!

phishing scams trick users

Types of phishing attacks

Phishing scams come in many forms, though email continues to be the most popular vehicle for attacks. Here are some of the most common phishing varieties to watch out for:

Email phishing scams

Most phishing scams still start with a fraudulent email. Criminals mimic reputable companies, agencies, charities, and more to trick you into clicking malicious links or attachments. Their messages often convey a sense of urgency and may threaten account suspensions or other consequences if you don’t act quickly.

Some red flags of email phishing include:

  • Generic greetings like “Dear customer” instead of your name

  • Suspicious sender addresses

  • Mismatched links that don’t match the text

  • Odd attachments you weren’t expecting

  • Grammatical errors

If an email sets off alarm bells, don’t click on a link or an attachment. Instead, log into the company’s website directly to check any notifications.

phishing email

SMS Phishing Scams

SMS phishing, also known as smishing, involves phony text messages often claiming to be from banks, online accounts, or delivery services. The text messages typically include alarming messages of unauthorized logins or supposed package tracking problems to trick users into clicking embedded links or divulging account numbers and passwords.

Smishing messages may look legitimate containing branding and logos of the spoofed companies. Links within the texts direct to convincing but fraudulent phishing sites to harvest information.

Cybercriminals have increasingly turned to smishing as more communication shifts to mobile devices making it a prime phishing channel. Smishing represents over 5% of phishing attacks and continues to rise.

Digital payment-based scams

With the growth of digital payments like PayPal, Apple Pay, Venmo, and Zelle, phishers are exploiting these methods too. Watch for emails claiming there’s a problem with your bank account and asking you to verify log in details or bank info. They may even spoof notifications from legitimate services.

Similarly, phishing attempt scams on payment apps and social media are on the rise. Fraudsters pretend to have merchandise for sale, request upfront payment via PayPal or Zelle, and then disappear once they receive the money.

Stick to trusted platforms when sending money online and avoid deals that seem too good to be true.

digital payment based phishing attempts ask for upfront payment

Finance-based phishing attacks

Your bank, credit card issuer, or financial accounts are prime targets for phishing. Scammers typically send fake emails warning of frozen accounts, suspicious activity or required info updates. Their links direct to bogus login pages to steal your credentials.

Certain telltale signs of finance phishing are:

  • Threats to close your account

  • Requests to verify personal details

  • Links to odd URLs rather than official sites

Banks and financial institutions will never email asking for your password or account PIN. If in doubt, call them directly before clicking any links.

finance based phishing campaigns target personal or financial information

Work-related phishing scams

Cybercriminals often target employees by impersonating bosses, IT departments or major retailers like Amazon. They may instruct you to buy gift cards, wire money or share passwords for fake IT troubleshooting.

Watch for:

  • Requests to purchase gift cards or prepaid debit cards

  • Threats about IT issues like compromised accounts or viruses

  • Amazon impersonators offering overpayment scams

Verify unusual requests by calling the person directly. Report phishing attempts to your supervisor or IT department.

verify suspicious emails and report phishing attempts

Spear Phishing: The Targeted Phishing Threat

In addition to broad mass phishing attacks, there is an emerging technique called spear phishing that zeroes in on specific individuals or organizations.

With spear phishing, criminals first research their targets and craft customized emails that appear even more authentic, often spoofing recognizable contacts. This surgical approach relies on familiarity to increase trust and the likelihood of victims falling for the scam.

Once hooked, the spear phishing attack leverages the established credibility to manipulate targets into sharing sensitive info, authorizing fraudulent transfers, or accessing compromised sites.

Spear phishing attacks represent a dangerous evolution of traditional phishing, requiring heightened defenses and individual employee awareness of personal phishing risks.

latest phishing attacks include spear phishing which manipulate targets into sharing sensitive information

Phishing attack examples

Now that we’ve covered the main varieties, let’s examine some real-life phishing scam examples so you know what to watch for.

  • An email appearing to be from Netflix claims your account is on hold until you update your billing info. The link goes to a fake Netflix site stealing login credentials.

  • A Facebook message contains a video link saying you’re in it. However, it’s a malware designed to infect your device.

  • An email impersonates Apple support saying your iCloud was hacked. They provide steps to protect your account but are actually gathering personal information.

  • A text message claiming to be from Bank of America references suspicious charges. The link prompts you to verify the account details that it captures.

  • An email posing as DocuSign asks you to complete important paperwork, but instead, it will download and install malware when opened.

See how sneaky and convincing phishing scams can be? Always verify before taking action.

Protecting against phishing scams

Now that you know how phishing works and how to spot it, let’s cover some key tips to avoid getting hooked.

  • Look for anomalies. Scams often have odd links, spoofed domains, spelling mistakes, or urgent threats. Let your guard up if anything seems off.

  • Go to the source. Rather than clicking email links, manually open important accounts to check notices. Call institutions directly if you have any concerns.

  • Never share passwords or pins. Legitimate companies will never ask for your login info or account access in an unsolicited message.

  • Use multi-factor authentication. Enabling MFA adds extra login protections that phishers can’t bypass with stolen usernames and passwords.

  • Install security software. Programs like antivirus and malware detection can identify and block phishing content. Some email providers also automatically flag suspicious messages.

  • Hover over links. Before clicking, hover to preview the actual destination. Fake links will show the shady URL for the fake website they really connect to.

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Use caution with offers for free money, prizes, and amazing deals – they’re likely phishing traps.

user training and security controls help prevent phishing attacks from succeeding

Phishing defenses: why you need a multi-layered approach

With phishing scams becoming more and more sophisticated, a single security tool or tactic isn’t enough for reliable protection. The most effective way to defend against phishing is taking a layered approach, combining:

  • Secure email gateways that scan all messages and attachments for threats

  • Ongoing security awareness training to recognize scams

  • Web filters that block access to malicious sites

  • Anti-phishing plugins in web browsers and email clients

  • Phishing simulations to reinforce best practices

  • Dark web monitoring for stolen credentials

  • Incidence response plans to contain successful attacks

This defense-in-depth strategy significantly lowers risk, makes successful phishing attack much harder to succeed, and provides overlapping controls to catch attacks.

Just as cybercriminals are using multi-pronged phishing tactics, you need a diverse defense to stay protected. Lean on solutions that apply advanced AI and threat intelligence to constantly monitor for and mitigate the latest in phishing techniques and behaviors.


Let’s Outsmart the Scammers!

Phishing may seem unavoidable, but with vigilance and the right safeguards, we can avoid getting hooked by these deceitful scams. Now that you know what to watch for and how to stay safe, you can confidently dodge phishing attempts and keep your data secure.

Here’s to staying one step ahead of the bad guys!

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What is a phishing attack?

Phishing is a cyberattack where criminals send fraudulent emails or texts posing as trustworthy sources to deceive recipients into sharing sensitive information or clicking malicious links.

What are the 3 most common types of phishing attacks?

The top 3 phishing attack types are email phishing, smishing (text messaging phishing), and vishing (voice phishing over phone calls).

What is 1 example of phishing?

A phishing example is an email claiming to be from your bank asking you to verify account information but actually stealing your login credentials.

What are the four types of phishing attacks?

The four main phishing attack types are email phishing, voice phishing (vishing), SMS text phishing (smishing), and malicious link or website phishing.

What is phishing in simple words?

Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain private information by disguising as a trustworthy source electronically.

What is phishing and how do you prevent it?

Phishing is when scammers use deceptive emails or texts to steal data. You can prevent it through security awareness, antivirus software, multifactor authentication, and verifying questionable messages.

What is a real life example of phishing?

A real life phishing example is receiving a fake email pretending to be from Apple claiming your iCloud was hacked and tricking you into inputting your Apple ID password.

What is the most common phishing attack?

Email phishing is the most common type of phishing attack, accounting for over 90% of all phishing scams.

How do I know if I have been phished?

Signs you may have been phished include unknown withdrawals or charges, accounts logged into from new devices/locations, and unexpected password reset requests.

What is meant by phishing attack?

Phishing is when scammers use fraudulent emails or texts to trick users into sharing personal information or clicking malicious links.

How do phishing attacks work?

Phishers send messages posing as trustworthy sources and urging users to act quickly, hoping victims will provide sensitive details or unknowingly download malware.

Why do people do phishing attacks?

To steal login credentials, financial account and gain access, money, and personal data for identity theft and other cybercrimes.

Which of the following is an of a phishing attack?

Fake notifications from banks, online services, delivery companies, or other recognized brands users trust.

What is the greatest defense against phishing?

Being vigilant, verifying legitimacy before acting, and using layered security like spam filters, antivirus, firewalls and endpoint protection. Report suspicious emails.

Can phishing lead to malware?

Yes, phishing messages often contain malware-laden links or attachments that result in downloading malware and infecting devices when clicked.

Does Avast have anti-phishing?

Yes, Avast security products include anti-phishing capabilities in their email and web protections.

Is there a free antivirus for phishing?

Many free antivirus programs like Avast, AVG and Bitdefender offer basic phishing protections. Paid versions provide more advanced anti-phishing features.

What is the fake Avast warning?

A phishing scam mimicking the Avast antivirus software with fake infection alerts that instead infects the victim’s device.

Can antivirus detect phishing?

Yes, modern antivirus tools use AI and machine learning to identify and block phishing emails, texts, fraudulent sites and other scams.

What is phishing and how can you avoid falling for it?

Phishing is an attempt to steal personal information through deceptive emails or fake websites. Avoid it by watching for red flags, verifying legitimacy, and using security tools.

What is link manipulation in phishing?

When phishing emails contain links that seem legitimate but actually direct to malicious fake login pages to harvest credentials and data.

What is an example of URL phishing?

A scam email with a link that appears to go to paypal.com but actually goes to paypa1.com, relying on similar-looking URLs.

What happens if I click a link in a phishing text?

You could unknowingly download malware, open a phishing site collecting your info, or trigger account takeovers if entering credentials.

What we can do to avoid phishing?

Look for red flags, hover over links to inspect destinations, use multifactor authentication, install security software, and verify requests.

What are 5 golden rules that will help you avoid email phishing scams?

  1. Check for poor spelling/grammar.

  2. Inspect sender’s address for authenticity.

  3. Hover over links before clicking.

  4. Verify urgent requests independently.

  5. Keep software up-to-date.

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