When the internet was in its youngest years and people were more oblivious to just how much information can be gleaned from the smallest clue, phishing emails were a dime a dozen, with a seemingly constant stream in anyone’s AOL inbox.
These were the days before effective spam filters and in a generation of people still finding their online feet. All it took was a slightly legitimate looking email, one that looked official and had an inkling of the potential for a scam, and trusting people would give these phishing email their whole world, their whole information and, often, their whole bank account.
Let’s take it back to the start. What is a phishing email? A phishing email is an attempt by scammers to trick you into giving out sensitive, personal information that can be used to drain bank accounts and steal identities. They are often masked as from an official company or organisation, such as a bank, the government or even commerce sites such as PayPal or Amazon. The scammers are clever, creating fake email hosting to reflect the organisation they are impersonating and coding their emails to be in line with the current theme and design.
Often, there are a few telltale signs of a phishing email – bad grammar, a generic greeting, straight up asking you to reveal details. Most banks, ecommerce sites, government bodies etc have guidelines on how to spot a scam and what to do in the event of one.
These guidelines were once wholly necessary and were imperative to read to stop yourself being the victim of identity theft and credit card scams. But nowadays – are they really required?
Most people – especially the younger generation, have become extremely savvy and clued into suspicious emails. If HMRC gets in touch and says you have £400 waiting for you, all you have to do is fill in your bank details, you’d be a little suspicious. (Side note: HMRC NEVER email about tax returns, they will always be sent in the mail.)
So why do these scammers still try? There must be a market for it if the odd one still gets sent, my guess is that it is the older generation who fall victim to these scams. Older people and desperate people.
With regards to whether they’ve died a death, I think the sheer volume has decreased massively. There was once a time when email inboxes were littered with these sorts of emails and it was a minefield navigating your emails, trying to sort out the legitimate emails from the once that were going to steal your money and your life.
I think they’ll always be around. There will always be some poor soul who gets the wool pulled over their eyes and indulges all of their personal information to a faceless email. These few people alone are likely to be enough to be able to keep the scammers going. Maybe the answer lies in more effective spam filters, but that begs the question – how much filtering is too much filtering?