Fraudulent emails are electronic messages that are designed to fool victims for personal and criminal gain, or to inflict harm on an organisation or individual using a fraudulent act. Phishing emails are an example of such criminal communications, and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) works on behalf of companies and private citizens alike to fight such criminal activities.
Along with offering practical advice on dealing with scam emails, the NCSC also provides a service designed to help companies and individuals report these malicious messages. In the following sections, we’ll explore how and when you can use the NCSC’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) when you encounter a phishing email in your inbox.
Anatomy of a phishing email
Cybercriminals construct phishing emails to convince their targets to take a certain action. This may be to part with private or sensitive data like bank account details, or to click on links or download an attachment.
The links and attachments are never what they purport to be. Instead of revealing a valid document or directing you to a trusted site, they can execute a download of malicious software onto your device or take you to a bogus webpage to steal your credentials.
Identifying fraudulent emails
There are many signs you can look out for to spot a phishing email. Poorly written content can be a strong clue, as can requests for information of a private nature. Institutions like banks and government organisations will never request sensitive data via email, so never respond under any circumstance. Emails that threaten or demand urgent action are also commonplace, as they create panic that makes recipients react rashly, clicking on links, making payments, or offering up information.
How to report a suspect email to the NCSC
Any emails that you or your business receive that you are wary of can be reported to the NCSC’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) by simply forwarding them on to email@example.com. Informing the NCSC swiftly of suspicious email activity can help it to act quickly and protect other firms from phishing attacks.
When the NCSC identifies phishing activity, such as spoofed websites designed to steal passwords, usernames, and financial account details, it takes action to neutralise online operations, from blocking malicious senders to working with web hosting services to render fake sites inactive. If, after reporting a phishing email, you are still being bombarded with fraudulent mail, the NCSC advises that you contact them so they can investigate the issue further.
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