Home > Misc., SoulHow > SoulHow to not get Phished

SoulHow to not get Phished

Reportedly the number of monthly phishing attempts in my state have risen to an all-time high. Therefore I thought it appropriate to write some ways to NOT get phished, and how to identify a common characteristics of a phishing attempt, whether email or web based. Many of my readers probably already know this, but if you do know about phishing but also know of others who don’t, I encourage you to pass this information on to them so they don’t potentially lose a lot of money.

But first, I need you to go here and log in with your paypal details so I know who read this article.



Got you? You DEFINITELY need to read this article. Seriously, like, NOW.
Didn’t get you? You still might need to read this article.

So yeah, bottom line, you should probably read the article. Just sayin’.

First of all, what is phishing? From Dictionary.com:

Main Entry: phishing
Part of Speech: n
Definition: The practice of luring unsuspecting Internet users to a fake Web site by using authentic-looking email with the real organization’s logo, in an attempt to steal passwords, financial or personal information, or introduce a virus attack; the creation of a Web site replica for fooling unsuspecting Internet users into submitting personal or financial information or passwords.

A year or so ago, this sort of thing was common for myspace hackers before myspace implemented a system that automatically warns users before they click a link that will leave the real myspace.com. Hackers would send out mass messages (by hand or by using a bot) to random people containing some link (with promises of scandalous pictures of “your friend” or free stuff etc.) and when you clicked that link, it would take you to a completely different website which had copied the exact look of the myspace login page, but would of course instead of logging you in simply email or store your username and password and most likely log your email address to send you spam off of which the hacker would profit.

At first, these pages were easily identifiable by just looking in the address field of the page; it would say something random and you could tell for sure that it was a fake website. But soon enough, phishers got smarter and registered domains and subdomains that looked legitimate. Therefore, internet users really had to look closely to identify a fake. Here are some classic deception methods used by phishers in their website addresses (using myspace as an example):

http://www.mspace.com (missing “y”)
http://www.myyspace.com (second “y”)
myspace.someotherdomain.com (myspace is still in the address…)

Be sure, when inputting your details to a website, that it’s either an authenticated website (usually with an icon near the address bar) or otherwise inspect the URL very closely. The main website name MUST be right next to the .com or .org etc. For example, myspace.com, not myspace.login.com. In the latter case, “login” is the MAIN domain, and “myspace” is just a subdomain of it–which means someone registered the domain login and put a subdomain on it called “myspace”. If the real myspace had done it, it would be something more like “login.myspace.com”. Because myspace (with no misspellings) is right next to the .com, it’s the main domain and “login” is a subdomain of myspace.

Also beware of sites that might have something like myspace.com.cc, or something like that. In that case, “com” is actually the main domain, because the creator of the fake website used .cc as the top-level domain and put a subdomain called myspace. Note, that a top-level domain can be thought of as a huge container for websites; these are things like .com, .net, .org, .info, and a bunch of other more obscure ones. In any URL, the top-level domain is always the last “.something” before any / (not including the http://), and the domain name is the text between that and the previous “.”. See if you can figure out the top level domain and domain names in these URLs:


Domain: “myspace” – top-level domain: “.com”
Domain: “login” – top-level domain: “.com”
Domain: “myspace” – top-level domain: “.com”
Domain: “mywebsite” – top-level domain: “.net”
Domain: “co” – top-level domain: “.cc”
Domain: “com” – top-level domain: “.net”

Go here for a full list of top-level domains.

This isn’t the only way phishers try to get you. While they do use this sort of scam with anything from myspace accounts to bank passwords to paypal details, they also have other methods of tricking you. The most prominent of these is the email scam.

So say one day, you turn on your computer, and all of the sudden, you get an email like this:

Hello paypal customer,

We havve been just informed that many of our accounts are corrupted in our database. Therefore we are going to close and remove any money from accounts that do not validate their details within 5 days. Please do it now by clicking [this link] or your account will be closed.

The paypal team

Oh noes! You need your paypal account AND the $200 inside it, so you should definitely go validate your password, right?

Hopefully you’re laughing silently at me, but there are a number of things to point out here that are good to keep in mind in general. First of all, what tips us off that the above message is fake and sent by a phisher? Go ahead and make a mental note of some things. Okay, done? Here’s MY list:

1) The greeting
No company like PayPal or eBay will title their messages “Dear customer”. Either they will address it to your first name PERSONALLY, or they won’t include a greeting at all. Even if they write “Dear [your email here]”, don’t trust it; they even though it may be your email address, don’t forget the sender of the email obviously has your email address (and can therefore write it into the email) if they’re sending the message to you in the first place! What you want to look for in the email greeting is your NAME, which is something that (in most cases) large companies will have in their databases attached to email addresses of their users, and phishers will not.

2) Poor spelling and grammar
A large company like paypal WILL have their official messages spell-checked and grammar checked, and will most likely have been written by a person who is fluent in English (otherwise, why would this person have been hired and placed in a position where they would have to write emails to send to customers?). If you get a message from a large company and it has more than one small spelling error or ONE glaring spelling or grammar error, start seriously doubting the validity of the message.

3) Threatening to “close your account”
Be very suspicious when you get an email that says something bad will happen to your account if you don’t “validate your account details” or something along those lines. First of all, if your account has some sort of monetary aspect attached to it (think PayPal) then they will NOT just close your account regardless of what you have or haven’t been doing with it (assuming everything in the account was acquired legally); if they did that to an account with money in it they could easily be sued. If you REALLY think what they’re saying is possible, however, then just go to the website, find some terms of use, and read through them to find out for sure. If you still can’t tell one way or another, either send an email to or forward the email to the company and have them verify it themselves.

4) No images or stationery
Always look for official “stationery” on emails supposedly from large companies. If the email is just a few lines of text (like the example above) you can be almost 100% sure it’s a fake. eBay’s emails for example always come with the ebay logo and the ebay-themed colors, etc. If it doesn’t look official, it probably isn’t. In this case (if you’re really not sure) again, either email the company asking them directly about the email or forward the email to them so they can verify it themselves.

Finally, there are pure email-based scams. They ask you to do certain things that ultimately end in your loss and the phisher’s gain. There are too many types of email-based scams to list all of them here (Nigerian scams, fake lottery scams, etc.) so really the only piece of advice I can give is to always be suspicious, even of emails that look real, if they ask you to do anything based around “logging in” or “sending money”.

If you want to learn more about email-based scams, you can do so here.

Good luck. Pass this article on to anyone you think may need to read it. Phishers rely on gullibility, deception, and misdirection, so if we’re all ready for them, it’s impossible for them to profit off of us.

Let me know what you think of this article, and if you have any tips yourself on avoiding getting phished, be sure to post them in the comments. See you next time.

Categories: Misc., SoulHow
  1. ~Ch@ud~
    July 31, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    LOL, Givah
    Well, the only thing you need to do in order to escape phishing is to just set up a normal, tuned firewall and check websites via Google, Kitsune Browser (Firefox) has this feature.
    Also, simply don’t open any mails that has a strange subject and from ppl you don’t know. Also check the adress, since no PayPal guys or any others would send you a mail from a free mailservice, such as Hotmail.

  2. killer336/giver336
    May 19, 2010 at 3:02 pm


    Now I know that the Nigerian princess was a fake. A FAKE I SAY

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