Why Are There So Many Phishing Emails in My Box?

How the non-stop barrage of scam emails catches some people off-guard.

Rose Bak
Rose Bak
Oct 16 · 4 min read
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Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

“You Paypal account is on hold. You must log in immediately to update missing information or we will suspend account. Enter you log-in here.”

Receiving an email like this might be a cause for concern except for three things that caught my attention:

  1. Paypal — like all reputable and secure sites — won’t ask me for my log-in information.

Emails like this are generally referred to as “phishing”.

Phishing is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.”

These phishing efforts are intended to do one of three things: get your private information so they can steal your identity; extort you for money directly; or install malware on your computer often for ransomware attacks.

The most common phishing email is looking for your credentials: your log in and password.

It’s also increasingly common to receive extortion emails. A common one was sent to my friend recently. The email told her that they had filmed her “enjoying” a porn site and if she didn’t want them to publicly post the film of her using porn she needed to send them money.

Fortunately my friend is smart enough that she didn’t fall for it. Knowing that she had not visited any porn sites and that her laptop camera was blacked out also helped. However, for many people, an email like that might have seemed more ominous.

Is phishing really that big of a deal?

Phishing is a huge problem for all of us, and getting worse every year.

An estimated 4% of all emails are phishing attempts. In March 2020 alone, over 60,000 phishing sites were reported to cybersecurity experts.

Microsoft found in 2019 that phishing emails had increased 250% in one year.

I believe it. I have received twelve phishing emails in the last two days. Almost all of them purported to be from either Paypal or Apple.

Cyber security company Avanan reports the two most popular brands phishers pose as are Microsoft and Amazon.

That makes sense when you think about it. Most of us have a relationship with one or more of these services, so it makes a person more likely to believe that they are being contacted by the company.

Chances are good you have received one or more phishing emails in the last month that, at first glance, appeared to be from one of these four companies.

Banks and credit card companies are also frequent targets. If you send enough emails pretending to be from Wells Fargo, sooner or later you are bound to hit the email of someone who is actually a Wells Fargo customer.

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Photo by Dan Nelson on Unsplash

How can we protect ourselves from being scammed?

You have to be vigilant to protect yourself from scammers trying to get your information.

Your email spam filter is not enough to protect you. Even though the filters get more sophisticated every day, so do the phishers.

Here are some tips from security experts:

  • Verify the sender before you open any message.

The holiday season is coming and that will prime season for new phishing scams aimed at stores where you are likely to do online shopping. Stay vigilant — pay attention, be suspicious, and when in doubt, delete!

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Rose Bak

Written by

Rose Bak

Rose Bak is a freelance writer, author and yoga teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit rosebakenterprises.com or follow @authorrosebak on social media.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +717K people. Follow to join our community.

Rose Bak

Written by

Rose Bak

Rose Bak is a freelance writer, author and yoga teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit rosebakenterprises.com or follow @authorrosebak on social media.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +717K people. Follow to join our community.

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