As long as there have been emails, there have been scammers trying to get money from unsuspecting folks. To some people, receiving an email carries the same weight as receiving a letter. It must be legitimate if someone found your address, right? Acquiring emails is extremely easy to accomplish. It is not unlike using the old telephone books to look up a phone number. As technology evolved so did the instruments of the scammers. Phishing scams are something that every email user is exposed to and they are increasing in volume.

You might know that someone sending you a notice from overseas telling you that you’ve won a lottery you never entered or inherited money from someone you never heard from before is a scam. But there are a lot more sophisticated phishing scams that could be taking aim at your personal accounts.

Here’s what to watch for:

Phishing 101

Phishing, like fishing, it about “casting out” a net to see what can be caught. For the phishing scammers, their target “catch” is your personal information. Sometimes that might be a straightforward request for your name and address. The “golden key” would be your social security number. You should never send that to anyone unless you’ve verified they are a trusted account. Even then you should be cautious. Other phishing emails could entice you to open a link. This could have you unwittingly downloading a computer virus into your system. If that computer is connected to a company network, then the entire company can be infected.

Invoice Phishing

An invoice phishing email might look like an invoice from a vendor that you’re familiar with and do business with. Depending on the volume of your business, it might be easy to assume that you overlooked an invoice. These emails request that you open a link to pay the invoice. That is when the hackers can gain access to your personal information including your bank accounts. You could literally be handing it all over to them. There are also variations of this type of phishing scam that can involve delivery requests and payments for your company.

Virus Compromise

It is ironic that a notice about a potential virus could be the real virus. You might get an email telling you that your account as been “compromised.” The only remedy, according to the email, is to reset your password and provide personal information to verify your account. Any company that you have an account with wouldn’t ask for information like this. You could actual forward the email to the company itself and ask if it is genuine.

More Ways to Spot a Phishing Email

Just because an email has a company logo and looks “official” doesn’t mean it is official. Grammar and spelling errors are a giveaway that something is phony about that email. If you are also directed to a third-party website that is different from the company website, then you are probably dealing with a fraud.

Regardless of how temping the invitation to open a link, you should never do that unless it comes from a trusted source. Sometimes even a trusted source can be compromised if their own email was hacked. Before opening a link, send an email to the source that you know and ask if it is legitimate. You should also make sure that your computer is always backing up its data. Bottom link: Think before your respond to any email. A call to the company will always reveal the truth.