What Is a Phishing Scam?

Though you may not know it, you have almost certainly encountered a phishing scam at least once. According to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report, phishing attacks are among the most common cybercrimes.

You may be wondering, then, what a phishing scam is.

Phishing can take many forms. At root, a phishing scam is an attempt to trick you into giving a hacker access to your systems–either by clicking a malicious link or by sending personal information to the attacker.

There are several approaches an attacker might take. As technology advances, new phishing methods continue to develop.

Keep reading to learn about the different kinds of phishing attacks and how to avoid them.

The Most Common Phishing Attacks

Email scams are by far the most common type of phishing scam. This is the style of phishing you’ve probably encountered: you get an email that says it’s from Apple or PayPal, requesting that you verify your login information.

The phishing email might look legitimate, but when you enter your info, it’s sent to the attacker. Now they know how to access your account.

Sometimes, these attacks are aimed specifically at high-level corporate executives who have access to important business accounts. This method is called spear phishing.

There are a few ways to check if an email is legitimate, such as verifying the sender’s email address. This phishing virus blog has more information on how to identify phishing emails.

Malware and Phishing

Many phishing scams focus on stealing your data, but some of them aim to infect your computer with a virus. Malware phishing occurs when a phishing email has a link or attachment that unleashes a virus when clicked.

Malware can take many forms, but malware phishing often utilizes ransomware.

Ransomware locks down a specific part of your system–programs or web browsers, for instance–until you pay the hacker to regain control. Once it’s on your computer, ransomware is very difficult to get rid of.

Malware phishing often relies on you downloading an attachment from an unsafe email, so avoid opening attachments unless you’re certain you can trust them.


Vishing is a type of phishing that attacks you through your phone instead of your email. Have you ever gotten a spam call told you there was a warrant out for your arrest, or that you’d missed a court date? That’s vishing.

Vishing attempts often try to scare you into surrendering private information. They threaten legal action or act like you’ve done something wrong, hoping that you’ll be too confused and intimidated to resist giving them your info.

A vishing call might also pretend to be a bank or utility company, stating that there’s some issue with your account. Just like the email scams covered earlier, they’ll ask you to verify your info so that they can steal it.

Learn to Detect a Phishing Scam

Falling prey to a phishing scam can have devastating effects: you could lose access to important accounts or be subjected to frustrating malware. Entire companies have been damaged by cleverly crafted phishing attacks.

That’s why it’s so crucial to identify and avoid phishing emails and other scams.

Phishing isn’t the only danger in the online world. Visit our tech blog to learn more.


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