Facts About Phishing

Mar 8, 2022

This is part of a phishing awareness campaign partnership between Abacus and Proofpoint, one of our valued cybersecurity solutions partners.


Every day, cyber criminals use malicious emails to try to scam individuals and organizations - a type of attack known as phishing.

What would you do if a suspicious stranger came up to you on the street and tried to lure you down a dark alley? You’d probably sense danger and either walk away quickly or call for help.

But what if the stranger approached you through email? You might feel it’s safe to click on a link in the email or open an attached file — but it’s a trap.

Every day, cyber criminals use malicious emails to try to scam individuals and organizations — a type of attack known as “phishing.” Interacting with a phishing email carries serious risks for you, your employer, even your family and friends. Fortunately, everyone can learn tactics for recognizing and avoiding these attacks.

What is Phishing?

In a phishing attack, cyber criminals use deceptive emails to “fish for” information and lure people into falling for scams. These emails are carefully designed to trick you into revealing financial information, login credentials, or other sensitive data. Or, they may secretly install dangerous software (malware) that compromises your computer and the files on it.

Phishing emails typically pressure you to act quickly, without thinking. They play upon strong emotions — such as curiosity, fear, or greed. These psychological manipulation tactics are sometimes known as “social engineering.”

Phishing emails also use a variety of technical tricks to steal information:

  • Malicious web links. You’re asked to click on a link that takes you to an imposter website or to a site infected with malware.
  • Malicious attachments. You’re urged to open an unexpected attachment that contains malware.
  • Fraudulent data-entry forms. You’re prompted to fill in sensitive information like user IDs, passwords, credit card data, and phone numbers.

Is Phishing Really My Problem?

Many companies have suffered serious data breaches that exposed everything from business secrets to the confidential data of millions of people. These data breaches often start by tricking one person with a phishing email, giving criminals a foot in the door.

Phishing can affect your personal life, too. Whether at home or at work, falling for a phishing email can have serious, long-term consequences.

Consequences of Falling for a Phish at Work:

  • Loss of corporate funds
  • Exposed personal information of customers and coworkers
  • Outsiders accessing confidential communications, files, and system
  • Files becoming locked and inaccessible
  • Damage to employer’s reputation

Consequences of Falling for a Phish in Your Personal Life:

  • Money stolen from your bank account
  • Fraudulent charges on credit cards
  • Tax returns filed in your name
  • Loans and mortgages opened in your name
  • Lost access to photos, videos, and files
  • Fake social media posts made in your accounts

What Can I Do?

Use the following tips to protect yourself against a phishing attack and share them with family, friends and colleagues:

  • Develop your anti-phishing skills. Engaging with your organization’s security awareness training program is a great way to practice identifying the warning signs of a phish.
  • Look for opportunities to learn more about phishing. Additional articles in this series cover specific types of phishing and other security issues in more detail.
  • Think before you click. You shouldn’t automatically trust any email message, especially if it sounds frightening or too good to be true. Familiar logos, senders’ names, and personal information are often faked by scammers.
  • Be wary of unexpected requests for personal information. Never send account numbers, PINs, or login credentials through email — even if the request sounds urgent.
  • Verify attachments before opening or downloading. Even if an email seems to come from a company or person you trust, don’t open an unexpected attachment. To make sure the file is legitimate, contact the company or individual directly through its website or use a known, verified phone number.
  • Find out how to report suspicious email. Your organization’s email platform may have a button that lets you quickly report potential phish. Or, you may need to forward the message to a specific IT inbox.

Download a PDF copy of Proofpoint's "Facts About Phishing" Newsletter.


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