Google Mail users are undoubtedly some of the most frequent victims to phishing attacks.
In 2016, the email host mecca announced that they have over 1 billion monthly users. With such a large user base, it’s understandable how they are often the target of malicious activity from spam accounts.
What’s frightening for users is that some Google phishing email attacks are sophisticated.
According to the academic journal Human Factors, average citizens worldwide are unaware of a worm when it lands in their inbox. (You can test your ability here).
For both personal and professional accounts, consumers need to be equipped on how to handle an attack. Not only can a phisher receive highly sensitive information within your line of work, but also about your own personal life.
Don’t be one of the next thousands of people who will be affected by a Google phishing email attack. Read on to learn how you can protect yourself against this malicious activity.
1. Do. Not. Click.
This may seem too blunt or obvious, but this is the exact pinpoint of where so many users get affected.
Perhaps it’s a fault to our curiosity. Whatever the case is, we click on links too often without understanding what we’re opening.
Instead of fully clicking on the link, simply hover over the hyperlink. This should show a web destination, so you can review its legitimacy. If it looks strange, then delete and block immediately.
There may be instances where the address actually does seem relevant. But, are you too afraid to check?
If that’s the case, then open up a new web browser. Manually typing in the address will protect you from an attempted Google phishing email attack.
2. Review The Greetings and Salutation
Does the email begin with terms like, “Valued Customer” or “Applicant” (for jobs you didn’t apply for)? How about the ending?
Anyone from a legitimate company will use professional protocol in their interactions. They won’t address you with ambiguous greetings or salutations.
If the sender doesn’t address you by your first and last name, it’s likely a Google phishing email attack.
3. Review Spelling and Grammar
Going along with the above point, you should also double check a fishy email for its spelling and grammar.
Are you noticing a lot of spelling errors? Does the sender seem to have poor grammar? Do the sentences seem to be poorly structured? This screams Google phishing email scam.
As mentioned above, a legitimate business will take any point of contact seriously. A true professional cannot afford to make countless grammatical and spelling mistakes.
4. Be Wary of Urgent/Aggressive Claims
Very frequently, Google phishing email attacks will have outlandish threats to trick users. They may claim that your account is being suspended or that you are unable to access your account.
After that, they’ll ask you to sign into your account to prevent this from happening. In other words, this is an email user’s worst nightmare.
At times, it may appear that an email like this is coming from a trusted sender. However, you can’t be too careful. Even if it looks like your bank, you should call their customer service line to get the full scoop.
Also, strange, unprecedented urgency can be a sign of phisher. They may invoke fear by saying “You need to log in before your account closes”.
Again, if you are unsure if it’s coming from a trusted sender, it’s best to call their direct line. (One you found online and manually typed in- not one from their email).
5. Also, Be Wary When Asked For Personal Information
There are very, very few instances when a legitimate business would ask for personal info over email.
Let’s say your account actually is suspended or that your money transaction was unable to process. Would you expect to receive an email asking from your financial institution?
Absolutely not! Trusted businesses know better than to exchange personal credentials over an email exchange. It’s reckless and unprofessional.
One of the biggest mistakes that lead to a Google phishing email attack is contemplating. When you merely guess that the sender is legit, you are likely to consider sending your personal info over.
As mentioned above, if you receive an email asking for personal information, don’t hesitate to reach out to the sender. (Again, from a number you found off of their actual website).
6. Check The Email Address
Often times, Google phishing email scams will use a spinoff of a legitimate company’s name. This is why you have to double check the domain name of the email address.
Emails are sent to spam folders based on their domain names. If the phisher uses a phony name that isn’t registered by an actual brand, it won’t get blocked.
For instance, emails ending in ‘secure.com’ are typically scam accounts. This domain name is one that is frequently seen coming through into Gmail accounts.
It’s hard for users to recognize this because Google Mail only shows the person’s display name. To avoid this Google phishing email strategy, always check the full address in the header.
7. Don’t Open Attachments When Unsure
As a rule of thumb with all email encounters: If you’re unsure, don’t open. This is extremely applicable to attachments sent through email.
Often times, phishers will send malicious viruses and software through email attachments. Once you open, your device can become immediately infected.
When your device is infected, phishers can spy on you and keep tabs on your user history. This information can be used for further malicious activity. Not only that, but it can even be sold to sketchy companies looking for user data, as well.
Also, they can damage files, pictures, and other stored data on your device.
Most frighteningly, phishers can steal your personal information, passwords, and account logins.
A Google phishing email scam can lure you into a world of problems. The best way to avoid this to avoid opening attachments or files on emails you’re suspicious about.
8. Look At The Email Signature
Most professionals will have automated contact information at the end of their emails.
At a minimum, most businesses or individuals will at least have a professional signature at the end.
If you receive an email that doesn’t show a way to contact the sender, that’s a red flag. Not all ghost signatures are Google phishing email scams, but it can’t hurt to be safe.
Nowadays, it’s common in the business industry for users to provide contact information. If there isn’t a signature, and you’re at all suspicious, do not engage with the sender.
9. Look For Mismatched URLs
When opening a message on Gmail, it may appear that a URL in the message is completely legit. This could be a link for a number of things: applications, log-ins, sales, and promotions, etc.
However, a simple hover over the top can show that it actually wasn’t what you thought it was.
You should ensure that the URL and hyperlinked address match up. If there seems to be an inconsistency between the two, it’s likely a Google phishing email attack.
10. Don’t Trust Outrageous Offers
We all know that if anything sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is 110% applicable for online offers from illegitimate websites.
Don’t trust any email offering that includes something super outrageous. Typically, phishers will use new technology, vacation packages, and cash prizes as bait.
This is especially true if you’re receiving the offer from a sender you didn’t start contact with. Unfortunately, no one is going to randomly send you a brand new flat screen or week long stay in Hawaii out of the kindness of their heart.
This leads me to my next point of…
11. Don’t Trust When They Initiate The Contact
Did you receive an email that seems suspicious, but you didn’t reach out to the company or sender? It’s probably a malicious attack.
Like I mentioned in the above example, it’s not likely you’re going to win any big prizes out of the blue. It’s even less plausible if you didn’t even enter in a drawing or attempt to win the prize.
Phishers also use this strategy and act as employers. I’m sure you’ve received these types of emails before.
They read something like:”Dear Candidate, We received your application for XYZ position. We would like to offer you the job.”
What’s the problem here? Oh, yeah. You didn’t apply for the job.
An easy way to spot this is when the message contains an outrageous salary or has unrealistic work benefits.
It’s highly unlikely that a company you didn’t apply for will offer you a position over email. Are you promised $80,000 to start? Do you only have to work 30 hours a week at your own leisure? Yeah, that’s a scam.
12. Be Skeptical of ‘Government Agencies’
Those who are victim to a Google phishing email attack didn’t always fall for the bank lie. Often times, phishers will pretend to be federal government agencies, as well.
Commonly, a fraudster will try to pose as a representative from the FBI or IRS. They will ask again for personal information or want you to open some sort of document. Also, they could ask you to sign some sort of seemingly official paper.
In the U.S., there is no circumstance where the FBI or IRS would contact you through email for these kinds of matters.
If you have actually committed a crime or are of interest to the agencies, why would they use email?
It’s more likely that a raid of officers will come plunging through your door than it is for them to resolve the problem through email. (They probably won’t do that either, just to clarify.)
13. Check for a Logo
Most professional organizations and their employees will have the company logo as icons.
Unfortunately, it’s common for phishers to use these logos, too. However, you can spot a spoof if the image appears to be low quality or even slightly altered.
If you’re unsure, then go visit the website of the supposed sender. How does the display icon compare to what you’re seeing from their page?
Also, if you’ve received past emails from this sender (that you know are legit) compare the two.
14. Update All Software
If you have antivirus software, make sure that you frequently update it. (If you don’t have antivirus software, then it’d be in your best interest to download one.)
Often, malicious attacks come through due to vulnerabilities in the device’s operating system. Specifically, outdated Windows and iOS are prime targets.
Also, even outdated web browsers run the risk of exploitation.
An easy fix to this Google phishing email scam is to constantly check for updates. Always update systems, software, and browsers even if it can be a little time-consuming.
15. Go With Your Gut
As a closing comment, we just want to remind you that you should go with your instincts. Does a message seem off to you? Does their contact information not seem 100% legit?
Then, under no circumstances, open that email. Don’t engage with that sender. Don’t keep it in your inbox.
Google Mail allows you to identify a phish-seeming email. Like spam emails, you’d just click the drop down box located on the right side of the text.
Scroll to ‘Report Phishing’ and voila! You’re now a super stealthy secret agent helping fight cyber crime. Your heroic actions have not gone unnoticed.
Did you fall for a Google phishing email attack?
Don’t be embarrassed- it happens to plenty of people. If you accidentally opened a link from a phisher, you’ll want to take immediate action.
First, report this person to Google. Then, you should take your computer to be diagnosed or examined by a professional. This can help figure out if and what has been infected by the attack.
Keep an eye out for unusual activity on your device, accounts, and other personal areas. You also may receive unusual pop-ups, which are likely viruses.
Continuing to watch your device and personal accounts is the best way to proceed after an attack.
If you need more help with your Google account, then don’t hesitate to stop by our page for more valuable insight!