How to protect yourself from email phishing scams

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Scammers launch thousands of phishing scams every day. (Photo: Getty)
Scammers launch thousands of phishing scams every day. (Photo: Getty)

Scammers can use your email to target you directly. And, unfortunately, plenty of email phishing scams today are more sophisticated than the older varieties that would directly ask for your banking information.

Scammers launch thousands of phishing scams every day, and they're often successful at stealing personal information from targets, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center found that Americans lost a whopping $57 million to phishing schemes in 2019 alone.

"Because of advances in graphics, the use of automation for phishing attacks and the fact that ransomware from phishing has been become very profitable for cybercriminals, email phishing scams are almost a daily encounter for most users," tech and cybersecurity expert Chuck Brooks, president of Brooks Consulting International, tells Yahoo Life.

You don't have to be flying blind out there: Software like Malwarebytes Premium can help protect you from online scams and phishing schemes that are trying to steal your sensitive information. Malwarebytes Premium can also warn you if you happen to click through a phishing scheme and visit a suspicious site, as well as help block sophisticated cyberthreats that other programs can miss.

But what do email phishing scams look like, exactly? Here's what you need to know.

Shop it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.aol.com

Software like Malwarebytes Premium can help protect you from online scams and phishing schemes that are trying to steal your sensitive information. (Photo: Getty)
Software like Malwarebytes Premium can help protect you from online scams and phishing schemes that are trying to steal your sensitive information. (Photo: Getty)

What do email phishing scams look like?

They're not as easy to spot as you'd think. These emails often look like they're from a company you know or trust, the FTC says. Meaning, they can look like they're coming from your bank, credit card company, a social networking site you use or your favorite streaming service.

These emails tend to try to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment by telling you a story. Some examples:

  • They say they've noticed suspicious activity or log-in attempts on your account

  • They claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information

  • They say you need to submit certain personal information

  • They include a fake invoice

  • They ask you to click on a link to make a payment

  • They say you’re eligible to register for a government refund

  • They offer a coupon for free goods

"While scammers often — intentionally — make spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in their phishing communications, they do not always do so," Joseph Steinberg, cybersecurity and emerging technologies advisor, tells Yahoo Life.

Shop it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.aol.com

Phishing emails try to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment by telling you a story. (Photo: Getty)
Phishing emails try to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment by telling you a story. (Photo: Getty)

How to protect yourself against email phishing scams

The best way to protect yourself against email phishing scams is to avoid falling victim to them in the first place. "Simply never take sensitive action based on emails sent to you," Steinberg says. "If you receive a call, email or text from your credit card issuer or bank about potential fraud on your account, for example, do not address the issue based on that communication. Instead, call the credit card issuer at the official telephone number printed on the back of the relevant card."

In general, Steinberg says you should never provide sensitive information to someone who called, emailed or texted you, claiming to be from a company or brand you trust. "That party may not be who he or she claims to be," he says. "Always contact back via a known, official channel."

Brooks adds: "The bottom line is do not click on links you do not recognize and always check the address of the email sender. Be vigilant."

Shop it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.aol.com

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