How To Spot Phishing Websites

how to spot phishing

As more and more businesses go the online route, the website becomes critical for a company to communicate with the target audience. The website’s importance also has several challenges, and one of them is the threat from hackers. The price of a data breach is enormous. It can lead to loss of trust and severe penalties imposed by government agencies, apart from lawsuits. That’s why it’s imperative to learn how to spot phishing websites.

According to Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) – 2019, one of the most significant risks is phishing attacks that form 32% of all data breaches.

As an internet user, it becomes essential to stay aware of such attacks that can also target them directly through phishing sites. According to the Google Transparency Report, there has been a spurt in the number of phishing websites. The number of such websites has grown to an excess of 1.35 million, translating to a growth of 130.5% since 2017.

what is phishing

It can trick the users into believing that they are on the intended website and bring out sensitive personal data. This article will learn more about phishing and how users can spot such phishing websites in advance.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is a malicious activity whereby the cybercriminals send out an email to lure the unsuspecting user into a website and ask for personal information, like their user id and password, social security details, or financial information and credit card details.

These emails may seem to be coming from a renowned business to make the users believe in the email content. The emails may lure the user into downloading malware that can wreak havoc on your personal computer.

The hackers may launch a spear-phishing attack against a business and gather the credentials of the customers. Then they will launch a phishing attack on the customers too. The scams are also not limited to only emails. They are present on social media too. There are specific rules regarding reporting against spam and phishing that apply to the different social media channels.

FULL GUIDE: How to Spot Phishing Websites

Check The Website Credentials

Before giving out your personal details on the website, you must always check whether the website has an HTTPS tag. It is always suggested to visit only HTTPS websites. These are protected with SSL certificates that require stringent validation checks before they are handed out. Businesses must choose from among the cheap SSL certificates to prevent any disrepute against their brand.

These certificates will encrypt the communication with the browser of the visitor. It will also ensure that your website is authenticated through proper validation, and there cannot be any copycats. However, you still must check whether the website is authorized or not. You must click on the padlock and at the drop-down, click on the “Certificate” tab.

There will be a “General” tab that will show an overview of the certificate and the validity. You can also click the “Details” tab for additional details about the certificate.

Check The Email From Where The Link Was Sent

Most phishing emails will come from an email ID that would look like a renowned business. Internet users need to check the sender of the email. It may be identical to the name of a reputable business and even contain its name. However, it would not have its entire URL, as most renowned companies would have moved to the HTTPS platform. Any impostor cannot register another website with the same URL.

Either the email address that sent the email is there, or you have to click on the alias to find out who had sent the email. If it is a phishing email, it may contain the name of a renowned business, but it will be from some of the generic service providers.

Verify The Domain Name

You must check the domain name that is used to send the email. Suppose you have received an email/message from the business earlier. In that case, you can check the terminology of the emails originating from the company to be doubly sure that it has indeed come from them and is safe.

Most phishing emails will come from a deceptively similar domain name but would have some difference, like or It becomes essential to closely check the domain name from where the email is coming. If it comes from a generic email ID like, etc., you must view these emails with additional caution. Some of the common domain extensions, biz, stream, etc. (by the way, be aware of the Domain Name Renewal Scam)

Some other emails may also be sent using a Tiny URL that produces a domain shortcut. You may also receive an SMS which will contain this Tiny URL that you have to click on to move to the website. If you have clicked on this URL, you must always check the domain name, whether it matches the business.

Ensure That You Visit The Website Directly

If you’ve received an email that you feel is fishy, the best way to avoid them is directly visiting the website. If you are unaware of the domain name, you may do a search on Google from where you can get the official domain name to visit the website. On the website, you may check whether the information given in the email is correct or not.

If you cannot find the information, you can get hold of the customer care number and reach out to Customer Support and gather more details about the offer or information that you have received over the email. It is only after confirmation from the Customer Support team you must take appropriate action regarding the email. The activity may seem cumbersome to you, but it will prevent you from falling into the trap of a phishing email.

Judge From The Email Tone

One of the common factors of a phishing email is that it will be harsh while instilling fear in you. The fear could be about anything, a pending EMI that you knew was cleared, the need for essential Know Your Customer documents that need to be provided to keep the account running, or your credit card details to keep it running, etc.

There could be many of them, and you would have to provide these details by visiting a shammy website. But you need not visit the site if you find the email’s tone to be very unusual and sound harsh.

The usual greetings could give way to a threatening manner that would require you to take urgent action. You must postpone the visit to the website and call up your service provider instead of confirming the email or SMS details.

Check The Layout And Content Of The Website

Most phishing websites will look like the target website in the layout or the colors and fonts used. However, you must always check the logos and shades used on all the pages of the website. If you have the slightest doubts, you must open another browser window and type the business website’s domain name and match both so you can quickly identify whether a website is legitimate or not.

You must also have a keen look at the content of the website. Most phishing websites will have faulty content with loads of mistakes in grammar and sentence construction. There would be too many spelling mistakes as well. Such gross errors in content must ignite a sense of disbelief in you, and you must start distrusting the site you have visited.

The reason is that this website’s primary intention is not to reach out to an audience but to lure unsuspecting people and bring out their personal information.

Checking The Documents Accompanying The Emails

Organizations must have a mechanism of checking the attachments that accompany the emails from unknown sources. Using upgraded antiviruses can check the emails for any associated viruses. The documents will also get scanned before the user downloads them. The antiviruses flag any possible viruses, and the users must not download these files.

Sometimes, the phishing emails have malware attached to them that can damage the files in the network. To prevent this from happening, you must check the SSL Certificate associated with such executable pieces of code. It will assure the email recipient that the downloadable code is from a trusted source and can be safely downloaded into their computer.

Protecting Yourself Against Phishing Scams

While we take all safeguards and keep telling ourselves to be safe from phishing emails, there can be some loopholes that the hackers can take advantage of to attack our networks. Businesses must have a fool-proof plan in place and have a regular training session with their employees. We must pay heed to these tips for how to spot phishing websites.

Security For Your Devices

You must have proper safeguards in all the computers in the organization. All computers must have the latest antivirus version to prevent unknown emails from passing through the security apparatus. It is also essential to have an anti-malware application to protect against any malware deployed into the network.

Having The Software Up To Date

The software in all the computers must be up to date to plug any vulnerabilities in the earlier versions. It includes having the incumbent software up to date with the latest patch updates. Your team must also set up notifications to ensure the software updates are installed to prevent hackers’ attacks.

Blocking All Pop-ups

Phishing crooks also have a unique way of collecting user data. They use pop-ups to lure internet users in providing their data. Else, there could be a link in the pop-up that could take you to a phishing website. It is necessary to block pop-ups in the browsers for all the computers in the network. It will act as a layer of security, albeit minor, to act against phishing scams.

Use of Anti-Spam Software

Businesses must install anti-spam email software that will block all spam and can also act against phishing emails. Few solutions can block specific email addresses and can also block emails based on the subject line and text in the email messages. The anti-spam filters can automatically quarantine spam emails so that the inbox is free from spam.

Consult If You Have Doubts

In some cases, the phishing emails may seem like it has come from a colleague. If you have doubts about the content, it will help if you have a dialogue with the colleague from whom the email may have come. Hackers can also target employees by making it look like the email originated from the managers and asks for critical information. It always helps to consult with senior management before giving out vital information.

Stay Vigilant

It helps to change the user credentials periodically, and using a password manager can also help. It remembers your user credentials for the website you usually visit but will not fill automatically if the domain name is different. It is also essential not to access public wi-fi systems as they can be easily broken into by hackers.

You must also not visit websites by clicking on links and not entering your personal information on public networks. Learning how to spot phishing is not easy, but you need to do it as soon as possible.

How To Mitigate The Effects Of A Phishing Attack?

Despite taking precautions, you may still be a victim of a phishing attack. You must inform the senior management and the IT team about the attack so that adequate precautions may yet be taken. In case you have given out financial information, you must inform your finance team and request them to take the necessary steps crucial to block the accounts. You can also report the attack to law enforcement agencies.

You may put in loads of resources to prevent a data breach, but one of the new employees may be unaware of the IT policy and may fall prey to a phishing email. It becomes essential to know about phishing and how to spot a phishing website. The employees must check before they visit the site.

Organizations must procure cheap SSL certificates so that the criminals do not usurp their domain names. In this article, we have discussed phishing and how we can spot a phishing website. We have also discussed some ways to protect ourselves from phishing emails and what steps to take if we ever fall prey to them.


How To Spot Phishing And Where To Report

Show your online friends how to spot phishing websites by sharing this article. You could also officially report criminals and any other suspicious activities to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) using the link below:

Report To The FTC Here

How To Protect Yourself More

If you want to find out the newest scams weekly, please subscribe to the Scam Detector newsletter. You will receive periodic emails. On the same token, educate yourself with some other fraud-related articles below. Feel free to use the comments section to expose other scammers:

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