Cyber criminals depart on Phishing expeditions every day. Sometimes these crooks send out thousands of e-mails at a time in hopes of hooking just one unsuspecting person. The information they gather from a successful phishing e-mail can lead to financial fraud, identity theft, and account takeovers.

So what is Phishing, how do I spot it, and what can I do to avoid becoming a victim?

Cyber criminals use a number of tactics to lure in unsuspecting victims. By knowing the red flags of phishing emails you can better protect yourself and your identity.

Masquerading as a company or acquaintance

This can be a company you have done business with, a friend or a relative. By masking their identity or presenting themselves as a trusted company, a cybercriminal attempts to build trust. They may ask you to visit a link on a topic or open a file attached to the e-mail. By doing so, you risk infecting your computer with a virus and possibly opening a connection between you and the attacker. If you receive a message that is unfamiliar, unexpected, or differs from the typical message you receive it may be a phishing attempt.

Creating a sense of urgency

Cybercriminals can be very good at creating a message that looks authentic and claim to be from a company familiar to you. They also deliver messages with dire consequences if immediate action is not taken. Additionally, messages may appear to come from a government agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, and Department of Homeland Security. The message will demand a response in order to avoid penalties.

The message threatens you with severe consequences

These messages threaten penalties, fines and prison all in an effort to get you to act quickly without having time to check the validity of the message.

These messages will often threaten account closure, notifying collections or credit agencies, and even foreclosure.