5 Types of Phishing Emails and How to Recognise Them

Phishing is one of the most common means of email scams. In 2019, 25168 cases of phishing were reported where 513 of them resulted in a financial loss, valued at AU$1.5 million. Moreover, there were more than 167, 000 scamming cases reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) controlled Scamwatch. These statistics indicate that it’s essential that all businesses know how to recognise some of the most common phishing emails if they are to protect their confidential information. Our cybersecurity team in Perth brings you a low-down on the most common type phishing scams and how to avoid them.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a social engineering attack usually intended to steal private information such as online banking logins, business login credentials, credit card details or passwords, by sending fraudulent messages called ‘lures’.

These deceitful messages impersonate a trusted organisation or person, to gain your trust and make you open an email. The messages mostly contain a malicious link to a fake website. Clicking on the link can lead to the installation of malware, and subsequently revealing sensitive information or the freezing of the system in case of a ransomware attack. An organisation succumbing to phishing can sustain severe financial losses in addition to the loss of market share, reputation, and consumer trust.

What are the types of phishing emails and how to recognise a phishing email?

How to recognise a phishing email | 5 Types of Phishing Emails

Deceptive phishing

Deceptive phishing is the most common of the phishing scams. The fraudster impersonates a legitimate company in an attempt to steal people’s private data or login credentials. These emails frequently use threats and a sense of urgency to scare users into doing what the attackers want. Usually, these emails request you to verify account information, re-enter information such as logins or passwords, or make a payment.

You can recognise deceptive phishing by paying attention to:

  • The email wording and grammar
  • The email sender address
  • The URL the mail is trying to send you to

In most of the cases, these emails consist of small mistakes, such as spelling errors and grammar errors.

CEO fraud/whaling

Hackers attempt to gain executive and director information to access their email accounts. At times, the attackers can easily succeed as executives typically don’t attend the same security training that staffs are subject to.

The attackers utilise the email address and writing style to impersonate the executive. They request confidential information or authorise transactions that result in money being stolen. If attackers fail to access the executive’s email accounts, they use similar email accounts to trick others.

To avoid this kind of phishing, all staff, including senior management, are recommended to participate in cybersecurity awareness training. Incorporating multi-factor authentication (MFA) channels into financial authorisation processes can help you stay protected.

Spear phishing

Spear phishing uses your information to trick you into thinking you know the sender. The email consists of Information like your full name, position information, or other semi-private information. The tone and message are personalised to lure you into clicking on a URL or email attachment to input sensitive information that hackers then use to access your accounts.

How to recognise a phishing email | 5 Types of Phishing Emails

The hackers use information visible on your social media profile and use it to try and trick you or others around you. So, if you receive an email that is different from the usual style or the request is different and seems unusual, it is best to exercise caution and make sure if it is genuine before you proceed to click on any link.


Pharming involves cache poisoning against the domain name system (DNS). In this case, a pharmer targets a DNS server and switches the IP address to one which directs users to a fraudulent website.

To avoid pharming, enter in login credentials only on HTTPS-protected sites. Also, implement anti-virus software and make sure to update virus database regularly.

Dropbox/Google Docs phishing

Dropbox phishing utilises your awareness of Dropbox and the trust you place in the service. In the past, related attacks have been targeted at Google Docs and Google Drive users.

Dropbox phishing relies on you clicking an important link in the inbox and then it sends you to a fake login page hosted on the genuine site.

Using Multi-Factor Authentication during file-sharing in the workplace is recommended to avoid the risk. This way, you add an additional layer of security and can be easily followed by the staff too.

These are the most common phishing attacks that you have to watch out for. Even then you may not be able to recognise every phishing email, as phishing emails continue to evolve and adopt new forms and techniques. So, it becomes imperative that businesses conduct security awareness training and implement cybersecurity measures to stay on top of phishing evolution.

Need help with phishing and cybersecurity-related queries? Our Cybersecurity consulting team is 24/7 available to assist youContact us or email at cybersecurity@computingaustralia.group, let us help your business to stay protected.

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Jargon Buster

URL – Uniform Resource Locator incorporates the domain name, along with other detailed information, to create a complete web address.
Ransomware – a malware that hinders access to a system and demands a ransom to free access again. The infection usually happens through deceptive links in websites, emails or messaging.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – A security process that requires multiple authentications from independent sources to verify your identity before you can access confidential data.