BlogScams26TH OCT 2023
AuthorSamir Yawar
7 min read

10 Hilarious Signs That Show You're Reading a Phishing Email

A feature image for a blog about phishing email signs
BlogScams26TH OCT 2023
7 min read

10 Hilarious Signs That Show You're Reading a Phishing Email

AuthorSamir Yawar
A feature image for a blog about phishing email signs

Did you know that big ol’ Google blocks around 100 million phishing emails daily? The sheer volume of these pesky phishing emails means that digital thieves are one tireless lot. And now with the power of generative AI, you bet they churn out those emails like clockwork. Still, by looking at some tell-tale signs of a phishing email, you'd be able to put them to shame.

Learn the signs of a phishing email

For every person who spends most of their day opening attachments and getting rid of offers from Nigerian princes and CEOs asking them for sensitive info…..

A cartoon character pressing the delete button

....about 25% of them end up clicking on a link that could potentially cost their business $1.5 million on average.

A character from Game of Thrones freaking out.
A successful phishing scam may result in a reaction like this.

Stealing your passwords and all manner of personal information via email is a pretty lucrative business. That's why many organizations feel that email security is important.

Before there was ransomware, Dr. Evil delivered threats the old-fashioned way.
Before there was ransomware, extortion threats were delivered the old-fashioned way.

Now, we don’t mean to be harbingers of doom and gloom here, but there’s some good news.

Turns out It is easy to recognize a phishing email. Provided you know what common phishing signs to look for.

A little education goes a long way.

Mayim Bialik hosts Jeopardy and asks a question

What's the secret to taking down dastardly social engineers? You’ve got to look out for these ten signs to spot a phishing attempt.

Sign No. 1: An Email from a Nigerian Prince or Famous Celebrity

Ah, the Nigerian prince scam. This is one con that everyone is familiar with. Still, we feel it merits a mention here because of pop culture and SEO reasons.

Have you gotten an email from a Nigerian Prince?

You know how this online scam goes. The email is purportedly from a Nigerian prince, a foreign government official, or a wealthy businessman, and they want to share their riches with you.

This one’s easy to spot. You ignore it and go about your merry way.

Sign No. 2: Getting personal

Ever got an email that asks you to verify (read: confirm) your personal information like your social security number, bank account details, or login credentials? The kind that makes anyone go full conspiracy theorist like Fox Mulder?

Excuse me? Who are you? And why are you asking me for these things?

Ron Swanson's character is throwing away a computer
Ron Swanson could've just deleted those emails but hey, this dude does drama for a living.

Unless you specifically sent in a password reset request, nobody has any business asking for your personally identifiable information (PII). You can safely bin those emails.

Sign No. 3: They want it RIGHT NOW

This phishing email contains urgent language and demands immediate action from you. Actions like clicking a link or downloading an attachment like your life depends on it.

You know, something like a boss could implore you to do?

Bosses aren't easy to deal with

When in doubt, always use a side channel to confirm things, preferably in person. Yes, that includes double-checking with your boss too.

Sign No. 4: Can I haz cheeseburgerz?

Did you receive a poorly written email recently that contains a slew of spelling and grammatical errors? The kind that can make your linguistics teacher disown you?

Horribly composed phishing emails are a massive red flag. And you should treat them as such.

Marge Simpson discovers spell-check

This one leaves nothing to the imagination. Into the spam folder, it goes.

Sign No. 5: That address doesn't seem legit

Suppose you get an email from a suspicious email address. Something that looks like a long string of random letters and numbers.

It could even be a misspelled name of a person or organization you know.

An animation depicts how emails get flooded with spam

Here's a pro tip for you: Always hover (but not click) your mouse pointer over links present on your email. By doing this, you can spot suspicious URLs faster than you can say “Aha!”

Sign No. 6: A Dreamy Job Offer

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

When life shows you a job offer email that requires no experience or qualifications and promises high pay for little work, you... run the other way.

A scene from Schitt's Creek

Because the email sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Phishing email creators rely on common psychological triggers to compel you into clicking the wrong link.

It never hurts to learn the tactics they use in phishing emails.

Sign No. 7: Amateurish greeting and email content

This one's very hard to spot because it is done in a very subtle way.

If you get a 'business email' with a rather generic greeting like "Dear valued customer," something is amiss. This is because professional emails make it a point to address you by name.

Danny DeVito writes an office email

If there's one thing we know for sure, nothing says "I'm a reputable business" quite like an email from [email protected]. So keep an eye out for the sender's email address too.

Sign No. 8: Would you kindly click on this?

Some emails include a suspicious link or attachment you didn't expect or request. And they want you to really click on it.

What would you do?

Repeat after us: No, I will not kindly click on anything.

Justin Bieber asks Hillary Clinton to check her email as part of a skit

It's time to rely on our good friend, the “Delete” button here.

Sign No. 9: It appeals to the Good Samaritan in you

Sometimes, you may encounter an email that implores you to send money or donations urgently. These people are so nice, they conveniently include a link for you to do just that.

You see where this is going right?

A short clip from The Jetsons

There's no harm in being charitable. If you want to donate to a cause, you can always search for a charity online and visit their premises. Trust but verify.

Sign No. 10: Free Offers

You get an email saying you've won a free vacation or a lifetime supply of pizza.

I mean, come on. Better luck next time.

Is somebody phishing? This guy seems to think so.

Remember, if an email seems suspicious, it's better to exercise caution and not engage with it.

And that’s it! Never give out your sensitive data and use the "Report email" feature on your email client to keep the world safe from social engineering cons. Once you get the hang of it, reporting phishing scams becomes second nature to you.

Resources to combat phishing scams

Like this post? Here’s a handy little infographic you can share with your family, friends and coworkers about how to spot a phishing email.

A checklist of things to identify phishing scam attempts
Samir Yawar
Samir Yawar / Content Lead
Samir wants a world where people can instinctively whack online scams and feel accomplished without the need for psychic powers. As an ISC2 member, he is doing his bit to turn cybersecurity awareness training into a fun concept with simple, approachable and accessible content. Reach out to him at X @yawarsamir
FAQsFrequently Asked Questions
Look for misspellings, generic greetings, urgent requests, and mismatched URLs. Be cautious if an email creates a sense of urgency.
Hover over links to reveal the actual URL before clicking. Be wary of links with misspellings, strange domains, or URLs that don't match the sender's claimed source.
Don't click any links or download attachments. Verify the sender's identity independently. Report the email to your organization's IT or the platform it came through.