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Why we fall for phishing emails - and how we can protect ourselves

Exploiting our mental shortcuts

Phishing emails manipulate us via mental shortcuts. There are seven shortcuts or psychological principles of influence that can be exploited by phishers. These include authority, commitment, liking, perceptual contrast, reciprocation, scarcity and social proof.

An example of reciprocity could be getting an emailed coupon and being asked to click on a button to sign up for the retailer's newsletter. 

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Why we fall for phishing emails - and how we can protect ourselves

Why we fall for phishing emails - and how we can protect ourselves

https://ideas.ted.com/why-we-fall-for-phishing-emails-and-how-we-can-protect-ourselves/

ideas.ted.com

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Key Ideas

Phishing

It is a scam by which an internet user is deceived into revealing personal or confidential information which can be used illicitly.

At least 3.4 billion phishing emails are sent out worldwide every day.

Phishing scams account for half of all fraud attacks.

Losing everything with a click

When it comes to phishing emails, you can lose everything with just a click.

You can give away your most important personal or financial information, download a destructive virus or install malware on your computer that compromises your files.

Using emotional tactics

Phishing emails are designed to bypass logic and manipulate our emotions.

Phishing is effective because it appeals to our biases and emotions. It tries to get us to make a decision quickly without considering possible biases. This leaves us open to unwise decisions.

Exploiting our mental shortcuts

Phishing emails manipulate us via mental shortcuts. There are seven shortcuts or psychological principles of influence that can be exploited by phishers. These include authority, commitment, liking, perceptual contrast, reciprocation, scarcity and social proof.

An example of reciprocity could be getting an emailed coupon and being asked to click on a button to sign up for the retailer's newsletter. 

Reacting to phishing tactics

How people of different ages react to  phishing tactics, according to a study:

  • Nearly half of the participants fell for the phishing emails.

  • Women over age 62 were the most susceptible.
  • Younger adults (18-37) were more susceptible to emails that claimed scarcity.
  • Adults over 62 fell for reciprocity.
  • All users were vulnerable to emails that dealt with legal issues.

Anti-phishing strategies

When you receive an email that asks for important information such as passwords or account numbers, or request payments, offer freebies, especially downloads:

  • Take a moment to verify if the email is coming from a legitimate address or organization.
  • Realize what you could get yourself into if you decide to click on a link.

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