Don’t Take the Bait

In an effort to keep our customers up to speed on the latest trends when it comes to threat detection and fraud prevention, ThreatMark presents our phishing blog series: Don’t Take the Bait! Follow along as we take you through the holidays, the busiest time for fraudsters, and help you educate your customers on the most common phishing hooks that can easily be avoided.

When it comes to threat detection and fraud prevention, one could easily say it all comes down to phishing! Or, more specifically, your capacity to avoid it. In fact, it could even be argued that phishing is the primary point of contact on most fraudulent attempts – which is why so much begins and ends with it. So, what is phishing and how do you avoid fraudulent lines? Keep reading!

It’s no secret that email continues to be one of the most effective ways to drop a line – in both the personal and professional pond. Friends and loved ones use it to stay in contact and companies use it for both customer acquisition and retention. And in both of these examples, you’re obviously taking bait from a clean line. But, given its wide range of acceptance and influence, email can also be used as a primary attack vector for fraudsters. And in this scenario, the line is obviously compromised and the bait potentially catastrophic. Now, what’s the best way to discern a fraudulent line from a safe one? It’s all in the details!

The Facts on Phishing

Before we talk details though, let’s talk about intent. The basic intent behind any phishing email scam is to persuade victims to divulge personal information (that can later be used against them) by means of purporting to be from a reputable company they trust. And the emails will usually be asking for (or in many cases demanding) some form of security-related call to action. This includes:

  • Password resets
  • Credit card updates
  • Home address confirmations
  • Social security prompts
  • Contact number requirements
  • And birthday details

So, basically, anything that would seem like a logical prompt coming from that trusted source. And this, of course, is what makes them challenging to detect. However, educating your customers on what these types of scams look like and how to avert disaster is crucial to protecting their privacy.

A Deeper Dive

Why is all this so important? Research validates that three billion emails are executed every day with the intent to compromise sensitive data. And of that three billion, one in every five victims will take the bait. 

Now, let’s talk specifics. Of all the different types of phishing scams we have out there today, the five most common look something like this…

  1. The domain name is misspelt or incorrect: There are many ways to spot email phishing scams but, in general, one of the best lines of defense is to always check out the domain. Fake domains can often be spotted due to the need for character substitutions. It goes without saying that these larger brands have proprietary sanction over their domains, so any fraudster attempting to pose as Amazon, for example, would be forced to use a domain that requires character substitutions. In the example below, the letter “m” is created using “r” and “n” together: <Amazon vs. Arnazon>
  2. The domain is public: It’s a big (bright, huge) red flag if you ever get a security email, or any email for that matter, from a supposedly trusted brand with an email handle that touts a public domain. An example of this would be ‘’ No reputable brand will ever send emails to their customers via a domain that ends in @yahoo, @gmail, @hotmail, or any of the like, that have the brand name in there. For instance, a legitimate email will never come from: <
  3. The email copy contains errors: If the email reads like it wasn’t written mindfully, that’s probably an indication that it didn’t actually come from a reputable brand. Often times, phishing emails will contain grammatical errors, missing words, broken dialect and the like.
  4. The CTA sounds like a fire drill: Any legitimate email from a reputable brand will always convey professional courtesy. If you ever receive an email with a call to action that sounds something like this, it’s probably a phishing scam: “I need you to address this immediately,” or “You must comply with this request ASAP. ”Professional courtesy will convey the timeliness of the request without creating a sense of urgency: “Your prompt attention is requested to avoid any additional inconvenience.” See the difference?
  5. Links and attachments are suspicious: Regardless of how the email is delivered, all phishing scams will contain something called a payload. And this refers to a suspicious and/or infected link or attachment contained in the body of the email. An infected attachment is a seemingly harmless document that contains malware. It could be an invoice, a receipt, an instruction manual, or anything that would prompt you to open the document innocently. And that’s all it takes. Regardless of how much interaction you have with the document, the malware will prompt a plethora of malicious activities aimed at capturing sensitive information. Always be confident about the legitimacy of the source before opening any attachment.

When it comes to prompting their victims with a live link, fraudsters will often try to disguise the website address with a button. For instance, you might get an email from Amazon Prime that tells you to update your account information via a big, red, shiny call to action button in the middle of the page. A good rule of thumb here is to always hover your mouse over the button before clicking it to ensure the website address is a valid Amazon hyperlink. A phishing scam will typically have an unrecognizable domain.

Keep Your Lines Clean

What we discussed in this blog is just a basic overview of what to look out for when it comes to phishing. But the reality of the situation is, email is only one of the fraudulent schemes. Text messages, phone calls, and social media post are also fair game in contaminated waters – as well as new and innovative phishing lines that fraudsters are casting all the time.

ThreatMark understands this and we are at the forefront of the phishing dock, with the Behavioral Intelligence necessary to keep your waters clean and your customers safe. Our Cyber Fraud Fusion Center (CFFC) provides the market leading expertise, tools, and threat prevention necessary to stop scams before they even reach your customers!

Why fight fraud when you can stop it before it even starts?

This post was first first published on TM News – ThreatMark’s website by Greg Myers. You can view it by clicking here