Phishing is something that everyone thinks they can’t fall for until it happens to them. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, they have had a reported 146,994 phishing attacks from the 1st half of 2020 alone. In the moment, a perfectly crafted phishing scam can appear completely normal to the untrained eye. However, even the most perfectly timed scams have some clear tells and common traps that, if you are aware of them, can make it easier to avoid.

1. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

These kinds of situations try to trick you in clicking a link by promising some form of reward. This might appear to be one that is easy to avoid, but in a perfect situation, where you are desperate enough or convinced enough you could be forced to download something that might create a situation that is less than desirable. This is a very common occurrence for scams through email. The best way to avoid stuff like this is to never get too excited when it seems like you have a chance of winning something, especially if it is from somewhere you wouldn’t normally trust. If you are curious enough about it, you can research it on the off chance that it might be legitimate, but chances are, it isn’t.

2. Grammatical Errors

This is fairly common in phishing scams. Automated messages that are made by amateur cyber criminals can show some potentially bad errors that you wouldn’t expect from a more trusted company.

3. Keep an eye out on where links take you and where you are getting them from.

This one is probably the easiest to recognize but, in the moment, it can be challenging to remember. If you are unsure if the link or email are sketchy, check if there are some non ascii characters in the link. If you don’t know ascii characters are the typical characters you have access to on a regular computer keyboard. With some exceptions, most trusted services only use these characters, so if you see a link that has a character that isn’t ascii, it probably isn’t a site you can trust.

4. Is this something you were expecting?

This one can be especially telling. Even if the scammer were able to avoid every other potential shortfall, it can be nearly impossible for the hacker to predict what you are expecting from something or someone if at all. If you get something you weren’t expecting, even if it is from someone you trust, make sure to contact them by some other means of communication, as their email or some other account might be compromised. This is how many of the biggest viruses, while not phishing scams, were able to spread making this very important to look out for.

5. Fake Logins

Fake Logins can be very convincing. This is because, rather than tricking people through excitement or fear, it can cloak itself as a mundane task like, verifying an account or some notification on a message connected to social media. This can be an extremely challenging task to determine if things like these are very dangerous. One quick tell for these kinds of phishing scams is if the browser recognizes the link and fills the password for you. If it does, while you should still be careful, most likely, the message was legitimate. If you don’t save your passwords you can test the login screen by putting in usernames and passwords that would normally be accepted when you create an account but are otherwise complete nonsense. If it lets you through or appears to accept it, chances are it is most likely a scam.

Most of these things aren’t really much of a problem anymore. As most modern emails, web browsers and antivirus programs would be able to quickly recognize that these things aren’t worth trying. However, it is still best practice to be aware of these things. Maintaining vigilance

And having a keener understanding of these pitfalls allows you to better navigate the perils of these scams and reduces your chances of being taken advantage of.