Spotting a Phishing attempt

The nerve of some people! While we all want to be safe online, there are people out there intent on nefarious deeds. Today I got an email that was an attempt to scam me, and in the spirit of information literacy I wanted to share.

What is a phishing attempt?

A phishing attempt online is usually delivered in an official looking capacity, and typically it’s used as an attempt to get your passwords and other credentials which can be used for identity theft and other illicit activities. Phishers try and make their work look real, but they can only do so much. Here’s how I knew that this email was NOT friendly.


 

The first line. (As seen from my inbox:)an example of a phishing attempt

This is the line showing that I have an unread email. I use Gmail for my personal account, so this will look different for everyone. Here are the first problems I saw:

The sender: typically I expect either a proper name, or a corporate entity. Sometimes someone will email with their name from a corporate account, but a legitimate email will have a recognisable sender. Main Post is not the name of anything I knew of, which is why I began to look closer at the rest.

The subject: when you send an email, it is standard etiquette to include a subject. If standard etiquette isn’t being followed, I must question if this is a real email.


The opened email. What do you think? Can you spot any differences between this, and what you’d normally get in an official corporate email?

The contents of the email that I deemed a phishing scam

Here’s the same email, but with the problems highlighted:The same email as previous, but with the problems highlighted (listed below)

 

Issues:

  1. the email address: visually the email appears to be from Canada Post, and who doesn’t love getting a package? Looking at the email address though, I see it came from a sharepoint.com email account. Quite clearly, Canada Post would not officially email me from a non Canada Post account.
  2. Odd language and typos: the email addresses me as both Client and Rob, but without a space after the comma. That is not a proper way to begin an email, and as it doesn’t match up with what you’d expect from a professional organisation – you should take that to mean this is probably a fake.
  3. There’s further odd language when it mentions they “noticed” the package which is rather informal, and also they note it’s at their “office” and not at a mail depot as one would expect.
  4. Advising the impossible: the email advises me to look at the receipt that came with an item I got? If I did not get it, how would I have a receipt? Do receipts normally come with mail? Absolutely not!
  5. Inconsistent language: at one point they note it’s a package, at another they call it a packet. Typically corporate entities have strong control of the language and terms they use. If they use a words which don’t fit the context, it’s probably a sign that something is amiss.

At this point I was very certain that I had a phishing attempt on my hands, but I still found it odd and wanted to know more. As such, I used an internet search engine to see if this text appeared elsewhere on the web. As a matter of fact, it did! It was found on a webpage warning of phishing attempts! Here is Cisco listing the email in its Threat Outbreak Alert. (It’s a long page, so hit ctrl+F on your keyboard and look for keywords to find your content.)


 

Learn more:

Your local librarians are information literacy experts! We always want to help you learn and find the information you need. For more on information literacy and protecting yourself online, check out some books like:

Information Literacy and safe online habits

Critical Thinking

Front of the book, Using Pop Culture...

 

 

 

 

 

The Windsor Police Service always have information on common scams, it’s worth checking out their anti-fraud resources. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have also produced a guide of what to do with Email Fraud, click here to check it out.

 

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1 Response to "Spotting a Phishing attempt"

  1. Bill says:

    Thanks, this is useful.

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