Five Ways to Recognize a Phishing Email

1. Hover. Don't click on links in emails.  Rather, point your mouse at them and hover over them.  When you hover over a link the link name should match the link location that shows up in your client as you hover over the link.  If the link doesn't match its destination, this is a tell tale sign of phishing emails.

2. Copy and Paste. If you can't see the URL where the links direct when you hover over them, copy and paste the link into a Microsoft Word document. Right click on the pasted link and select "Edit Hyperlink" from the menu that appears. Selecting "Edit Hyperlink" will open a pop-up window in Word that shows in the "Address" field the web address to which the link directs.  Again, if the destination doesn't match the link itself, this is a red flag.

3. Investigate the email's properties.  Email users who have opened a suspicious email can view the email's properties, specifically the Internet headers.  Examining headers shows the path the email took to reach the end-user.  Look at the originating systems. If they're not from your organization or other trusted email systems, those are also tipoffs that it's a phishing email.

4. Check a known legitimate website.  If your bank or credit card company is sending you an email regarding a fraud alert, you ought to see that same fraud alert on your bank or credit card company's legitimate website.  The same is true of emails sent out by Western University.  If you're at all uncertain, call the phone number on the back of your credit card, or your bank, or your university. Always work on information that you have a lot more reason to trust.

5. When in doubt, throw it out.  The best defense against phishing scams is to assume the email is untrustworthy and to pursue direct channels to businesses that you trust, such as your bank's 1-800 number or direct line to your university.


Published on  and maintained in Cascade CMS.