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Nowadays, our email addresses play a vital role when it comes to efficient email fraud prevention and detection. Email addresses are frequently used for a variety of online activities – from opening a bank account to creating a social media profile and running different types of errands. All things considered, we can affirm that providing an email address has become a primary part of the purchase process.


Email addresses generate a massive supply of data which is ideal for email fraud. Every time you use your email address, you leave a trace. Eventually, those traces add up and will finally disclose behavioral data that will evaluate transaction risk.

While emails provide us a suitable and strong communications tool, they also provide hackers an easy way of manipulating potential victims, using classic bait-and-switch operations or sophisticated phishing schemes. To stay safe from these attacks, you first need to understand what they are, how exactly they work, and what you can do to prevent and detect them.

What is Email Fraud?

Email fraud (or email scam) refers to the use of email to intentionally deceive an individual or business for financial gain.

Most Common Types of Email Fraud

1. Phishing

Phishing is a malicious technique used by cyber criminals to gather sensitive information (credit card data, usernames and passwords, etc.) from users. The attackers pretend to be a trustworthy entity to bait the victims into trusting them and revealing their confidential data. The data gathered through phishing can be used for financial theft, identity theft, to gain unauthorized access to the victim’s accounts or to accounts they have access to, to blackmail the victim and more.

According to Check Point’s Brand Phishing Report for Q3 2020, email phishing was the most common type of branded phishing attacks, accounting for 44% of attacks. The brands that were largely used by attackers in fake phishing messages were Microsoft, DHL, and Apple.

2. Spoofing

This is a compromise attempt during which an unauthorized individual tries to gain access to an information system by impersonating an authorized user. For example, email spoofing is when cyber attackers send phishing emails using a forged sender address. You might believe that you’re receiving an email from a trusted entity, which causes you to click on the links in the email, but the link may end up infecting your PC with malware.

Normally, email spoofing attacks are emails that appear to come from a genuine email address when they were actually sent by malicious actors whose ultimate purpose is to trick you into opening the message and download a corrupted attachment. What’s more, email spoofing can turn into elaborate BEC schemes that can take months to unfold and often lead to huge financial and data losses.
Due to the fact that a mechanism for address authentication is not established by the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), email spoofing is still very common. While protocols and methods for email address authentication have been developed to combat this type of email fraud, the implementation of such frameworks seems to be moving slow.

3. Business Email Compromise (BEC)

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a type of targeted fraud in which a threat actor pretends to be a company executive or high-level employee in order to defraud or collect confidential information from the organization or its partners. The main objective of a BEC scam is to try and convince the potential victim to transfer money or personal data to the cybercriminal while they think they are conducting a legitimate business transaction.

How to Prevent Email Fraud

Taking all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your email accounts against attacks and impede all unauthorized access is crucial for you and your users. How do you ensure email fraud protection for your organization? I have a few suggestions below:

  • Conducting regular phishing attack tests

Your staff is your greatest protection against email threats, especially when it comes to phishing attacks – be them simple or more sophisticated, such as spear phishing. This significant risk of endpoint compromise can be avoided by staff who have learned to recognize phishing attempts.

  • Filtering spam

Since most email scams begin with unsolicited emails, you should consider taking the necessary steps to prevent spam from getting into your inbox. Most email apps and services include spam-filtering features, which can help you configure your email applications to filter spam.

  • Using multifactor authentication

In case the passwords of an email account are successfully compromised, multifactor authentication will deter malicious hackers from accessing the account and severely affecting your business.

  • Blocking email auto-forwarding

Blocking email auto-forwarding will make it harder for threat actors to gain access to your corporate or personal email accounts.

  • Using antivirus software and keeping it updated

Installing antivirus software on your computer should be mandatory. If it has an automatic update and an email scanning feature, even better, as they will make sure your protection against viruses is always up-to-date.

  • Configuring your email client

There several ways you can configure your email client so you can be less vulnerable to email fraud. For example, you can configure your email program to view your emails as “text-only”. This will protect you from scams that abuse email HTML.

  • Using email security software

When it comes to securing the content of your emails and preventing them from being read by other parties, secure encrypted email is always a good idea. However, this practice alone is not enough. Therefore, you also need to consider an integrated cybersecurity solution, able to detect basic and advanced forms of email attacks.

Preventing Email Fraud with Heimdal®

Heimdal Email Fraud Prevention is a specialized solution to protect against financial email fraud, C-level executive impersonation, phishing, insider threat attacks, and complex email malware. This revolutionary email protection system alerts you to fraud attempts, business email compromise (BEC), CEO fraud, and impersonation.

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Email communications are the first entry point into an organization’s systems.

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How to Recognize Fraud Emails

To identify a fraudulent email, you need to keep an eye out for a few elements that I’ve listed below:

#1. Email address

You should always check the email header and the “from” address to identify the sender and find out where the message was really sent from.

#2. Logo

While a phishing email may contain the actual logo of the alleged company, fraudulent emails may use one that appears stretched or distorted.

#3. Email greeting

Some emails may not address the member by name. Or, there may be no name mentioned at all.

#4. Spelling

When checking an email, you should always look high and low for misspellings, grammatical mistakes, or punctuation errors that can help identify phishing emails.

#5. Legitimacy

Another common phishing technique is to include supposedly legitimate links in the email’s body to look like they redirect to a legit website. If you take a closer look, you’ll realize that the link in question may actually redirect you to a corrupted website that has nothing to do with the company the email is pretending to be from. Always check the legitimacy of the links – you can easily do that by pointing the mouse cursor over it. When it comes to mobile devices, extra care needs to be taken when clicking on email links. Always check the site by verifying the website address in the address bar.

How and Where to Report Email Fraud

If you have identified a fraudulent email, there are multiple ways you can report it:

Wrapping It Up…

There are numerous steps an organization or individual can take towards email fraud prevention. They must keep a pulse on the current email fraud strategies and make sure their security policies and solutions can detect and remove threats as they evolve. It is equally as important to make sure that their employees understand the types of attacks they may face, the risks, and how to address them. Informed staff and properly secured systems are crucial when protecting your business from email fraud.

Author Profile

Cezarina Dinu

Head of Marketing Communications & PR

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Cezarina is the Head of Marketing Communications and PR within Heimdal® and a cybersecurity enthusiast who loves bringing her background in content marketing, UX, and data analysis together into one job. She has a fondness for all things SEO and is always open to receiving suggestions, comments, or questions.

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