When people hear the term “spoof” they often think of a humorous parody of a song, movie, or real situation. It’s all about imitation — just like it is in the context of cybersecurity. But when it comes to cybersecurity, the imitation isn’t about humor or entertainment.

In this context, spoofing refers to the malware method of gaining peoples’ trust by impersonating someone or something that their target will trust. Quite similarly to phishing, spoofing relies on social engineering to lure victims into taking certain actions with either a false sense of security or a false sense of urgency.

Here is a brief description of email spoofing and some pointers to help you avoid falling victim to a scam:

What is Email Spoofing?

Often the key component to a phishing scam, email spoofing is one of the most tried and true methods of using the target’s naivete against him or her.

This type of spoofing sends emails that show the recipient a false or misleading address from the sender and is often part of a phishing email scam. Often times, these emails will be meant to trick the target into thinking they’re from an official entity like Facebook, Apple, Netflix, etc.

Typically, the email will try to either get the victim to respond with login credentials or other personal info to fix some kind of fabricated problem with the target’s account, or get the targets to click a link that will take them to a fake website or infect their machines with malware.

These are generally low-quality attempts at tricking people, but the scale at which this method can be employed nearly guarantees that at least some people will take the bait.

How To Avoid Email Spoofing

To avoid becoming a victim of email spoofing, here are a few tips:

  • Always check the sender’s address twice. A spoofing email may come from an address that looks official at first glance, but upon further inspection, is fake. For instance, instead of [email protected], the sender’s address could be [email protected] with an “rn” instead of an ‘m’ in amazon.
  • If the email has a generic greeting that feels templated, any typos, or lacks logos or other indications that it’s legitimate, these are red flags that it’s fake.
  • Don’t open email attachments or click links from senders that you aren’t sure you know.
  • If the email has a sense of urgency and seems designed to make you panic, don’t let them fool you. These scammers will try to convince you that there is something wrong with your account (that is, the account with whichever service they are impersonating) and you must take immediate action. If you’re concerned about what they say, go directly to the real website for the entity in question and contact customer service.
  • Turn on your spam filter — most email services include this for free. The filter will prevent most of these fraudulent emails from ever making it to your inbox.

As technology continues to advance at a staggering rate, there are more opportunities for scammers and frauds to take advantage of people who aren’t on the lookout for their shady tactics. Always verify with certainty that anyone who is sending you an email asking for any of your personal information is legitimate.

Also, consider signing up for identity theft protection to protect your personal information better. Monitoring services, like IdentityIQ, offer real-time fraud alerts so you can take action quickly.