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Phishing – Spotting suspicious messages

Published: 28 July 2021

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PHISHINGSpotting suspicious messages

Spotting scam messages and phone calls is becoming increasingly difficult. Many scams will even fool the experts. However, there are some tricks that criminals will use to try and get you to respond without thinking. Things to look out for are:

Authority – Is the message claiming to be from someone official? For example, your bank, doctor, a solicitor, or a government department. Criminals often pretend to be important people or organisations to trick you into doing what they want.

Spoofing – Is the message claiming to be from someone at the University, but the email doesn’t feel quite right. If it has [External] at the start of the subject field, then it is an external email with a spoofed email address.

Poorly written – You can tell if an email is a scam if it contains poor spelling and grammar, the theory is if you ignore the clues about the way the message is written, you’re less likely to pick up the clues when the scammer plays his endgame.

Urgency – Are you told you have a limited time to respond (such as ‘within 24 hours’ or ‘immediately’)? Criminals often threaten you with fines or other negative consequences.

Emotion – Does the message make you panic, fearful, hopeful or curious? Criminals often use threatening language, make false claims of support, or tease you into wanting to find out more.

Scarcity – Is the message offering something in short supply, like concert tickets, money or a cure for medical conditions? Fear of missing out on a good deal or opportunity can make you respond quickly.

Suspicious links – You can spot a suspicious link if it does not match the context of the rest of the email. If the email is about the University of Worcester, then you would expect the link to go to If you hover over a link it will show you the actual destination address.

Current events – Are you expecting to see a message like this? Criminals often exploit current news stories, big events or specific times of year (like tax reporting) to make their scam seem more relevant to you.

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