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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to spot a phishing scam

Posted by Nik Peachey

One of the key digital literacies our students need in order to stay safe online is an awareness of how to spot scams and people trying to extract their personal details.
One of the main ways scammers attempt to do this is called 'phishing'. (See Wikipedia for a full definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing)

Below is a quick screencast recording showing a phishing email with some information about how to check its authenticity.


So the key elements I checked were:
  • The information in the message. I used Google to check out the content and the name of the sender to see if they were genuine.
  • Use of English. Grammatical mistakes and use of either too formal or very informal language are often a give away.
  • The look and design of the message. This is often very poor and at best has some kind of attempt to link to a logo from the company.
  • Mouse over the hyperlinks and look to see where they go, if they go anywhere. Dead links or non-existent ones are a give away as are ones that are random numbers or letters or which have an odd suffix. The one in my message led to sngsnfjswrsad and had a suffix of .p.ht so that's very suspicious.
  • The return address. Although it looked like customer services, it's very easy to set up an email that shows anything you want it to in the reply, but checking the true address showed this to be a random email account and quite possibly not even the one that belonged to the sender.

I hope this helps you and your students to check out a spot phishing emails. If you have any tips that can help to spot these kinds of messages, please do add them to the comments.

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Nik Peachey

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