Using the Right Tools Can Help You Strike Back at Phishing Emails

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Several months ago, a convincing phishing scam started popping up in inboxes across the U.S. Chuck Fordham was reaching out to share a large Dropbox file. Do you know Chuck Fordham? Neither do we, but he grabbed our attention with one of the best-crafted phishing emails we’ve seen in a long time.

Such phish bait often targets corporate email addresses and is sent to unnamed email accounts like info@, manager@, etc. Several ID Watchdog employees were among those nationwide who received this message from Chuck. In each case, the phishing email indicated that a large file was waiting to be previewed on Dropbox.

Here’s why you must view such links skeptically. In reality, Chuck Fordham is not a person, but a phisher. This bogus email address leads to a construction firm that’s probably unaware of his existence. The company’s domain begins with dp as in “drop.” In middle of a hectic day on the job, that’s often good enough to a pass a brief email inspection.

Tools at Your Fingertips

It can be challenging for anyone—even ID Watchdog staffers who live and breathe data security—to spot the phish in a sea of email. The good news is that tools can help.  An email program typically has a method to determine who sent you an email. Discovering that vital clue can point out possible phishing attempts.

Dropbox is used by millions of consumers and is a trusted name in the world of data sharing. The cloud-based company realizes that phishing spammers try to capitalize on that trust, so Dropbox developed some excellent guidelines to help you learn more about email senders. With their advice, you can locate the source of an email regardless of your email service provider. One simple step can decode most email you receive.

If you use Microsoft Outlook, for example, right click on the email and select “view source” from the drop menu. That takes you to the email’s metadata file. Look for sender’s email address in the code.

Metadata also reveals the Internet protocol (IP) address of the computer used to send the email. A trace of Fordham’s IP address revealed that Chuck’s computer resides in, or is maybe just visiting, Nigeria. A handful of blacklists contain warnings about this IP address. Nigeria-based email scams are notorious in the data security world, so that’s a huge red flag!

Sophisticated Phishing Emails

Other phishing emails direct you to log into Dropbox or another company on a fake login page; if you do, scammers can snag your credentials. As the New York Times (NYT) recently reported, these phishing scams also work via text message. The NYT article spells out how to reveal sender data on an iPhone.

Gone are the days when phishing emails were riddled with bad grammar making them easy to spot. The sophistication of today’s phishing attempts cannot be overemphasized. Fraudsters even created Chase Bank phishing spam containing a disclaimer advising what to do if you suspect phishing email! That example claimed to take you to to report spam, but actually linked to a non-Chase, fraudulent site.

If you think you may have received a phishing email, do a little detective work and, hopefully, you can avoid getting hooked.

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