Is your business email inbox full of spam? Unwanted emails are annoying at best, but they can also lead to theft. Nefarious senders can use a type of spam called phishing to steal your money or your identity.

Luckily, with some basic knowledge and awareness, you can avoid giving away sensitive information online.

If you want to protect yourself, keep reading to learn about spam vs phishing. We also have a few tips to help email users stay safe.

Spam vs Phishing

If you want to avoid being tricked into giving away personal details via email, it’s important to understand the difference between spam and phishing. Here are the basics.

What Is Email Spam?

What is email spam, exactly? It’s basically online junk mail. Spam is the email equivalent of those heavy catalogs that pile up in your mailbox before the holidays.

It can include chain emails, coupons, and newsletters.

Most spam is irritating but harmless. Companies steal or purchase long lists of email addresses, then send out advertising to thousands of people at once.

It’s a low-cost marketing approach and an economy of scale. Spammers hope that if they send enough emails, at least a few recipients will bite. They’re not trying to steal anything from you, but they do hope you’ll make a purchase.

The best way to get rid of non-malicious spam is to unsubscribe, flag it in your inbox, or delete it. Ill-intentioned phishing emails are a different story.

What Is Phishing?

What is phishing? Phishing is a harmful variety of spam that aims to steal your login credentials and other personal data. Phishing emails are intentionally designed to trick the reader into giving away sensitive information.

Phishing senders try to imitate trustworthy contacts. They might design their communication to look like it’s from your bank, an organization you support, or a friend in need of help.

Recipients are often encouraged to share their banking details, send an emergency cash transfer, or click a link designed to install spyware on their computer. Phishing can result in identity theft or thousands of dollars lost.

How to Identify Phishing

Savvy email users should learn to identify phishing right away, so it doesn’t end in unnecessary disaster. Here are some telltale signs to help you recognize a phishing email:

  • Poor spelling and grammar
  • Generic greetings such as sir or madam
  • Urgency
  • Emotional appeals
  • Sent from an unfamiliar email address
  • Links do not lead to the supposed sender’s website
  • Requests for detailed personal information

If you notice any of the above in an email, you should investigate before you take action or respond.

How to Avoid Phishing Scams

If an email seems suspicious, trust your gut. Contact the company, bank, or person the communication claims to represent, and ask for confirmation that the email is legitimate.

It can also be helpful to copy and paste a suspicious email into the Google search bar. People often post warnings about common phishing scams online.

To avoid the consequences of a phishing scam, never provide personal information online unless you are 100% certain it is secure.

For maximum online security, turn on your email spam filters and ignore messages from senders you don’t know. You should also use a unique, secure password for each account you own.

Hire IT Pros to Help You Stay Safe Online

Now that you know more about spam vs phishing, take steps to protect yourself and your business from both. Having your identity or hard-earned money stolen is the last thing you want to deal with.

If you need extra help, hiring an IT service to provide professional support can be worth the investment. Contact us today to learn more about the online protection we offer.

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