The many guises of a phishing attack

News this week that highlighted the canny nature of scammers made us wonder whether we needed to start a glossary of phishing attacks. These attacks now come in many guises, and if you’re a computer user that isn’t privy to an underground network of caught-in-the-wild attack loggers, you may easily fall victim to one of the sophisticated methods that hackers employ to steal your data and money.

This is likely to be one of those reminders we roll out a couple of times a year to which we add the latest ludicrous phishing design. But for now, sit back and let your mind be boggled by some of the outrageous ways in which scammers are trying to dupe you into disclosing your information.

Phone and text scams

Before the dawn of the internet and mass computer usage, there were telephones with unwitting victims on the other end of an anonymous line. While cold-calling scams may be falling out of favor, smishing, or text scams are seeing a new lease of life, with instances of imitated banking, delivery confirmations, and even 2-FA texts increasingly being reported. How many times have you ‘confirmed’ your personal details to someone supposedly calling from your bank, the DVLA, or your insurance company? It’s easy for a hacker to fill in the gaps once you’ve handed over your date of birth and mother’s maiden name. And it’s just as easy to send a victim a text saying there has been unusual activity on their account – the victim calls the number in the oh-so-handy text notification and thinks they’ve got one over the fraudster. Uh oh.

Email impersonation

How easy it to change the lowercase letter ‘L’ for an uppercase letter ‘i’ so becomes – spot the difference? If you assume the sender is from a legitimate source, you’ll willingly handover your credit card details if they’ve offered a not-to-be-missed upgrade deal for example. More sophisticated scammers will actually spoof the sender’s email address, so even the most eagle-eyed email user won’t spot any issues with it. In this scenario you would need some clever tech to red flag imposters.  

Deceptive links

During the 2016 US presidential election, the legitimate URL, ‘’ was cloned and the tweaked URL, ‘’ was used to launch phishing attacks. Much like email impersonation, domains can be spoofed and lead victims to sites ready to harvest vital personal information.

Also, how many times have you looked at a shortened URL and thought ‘oh yes, I know exactly where that will take me’? No, me either.

Website cloning

Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a tactic used by many scammers to infect legitimate webpages with malicious scripts. This compromises the legitimate webpage without the user being aware – either by harvesting from that page or by a script-generated pop-up that requests user information.

Lost in translation

Recently, researchers uncovered that scammers were not satisfied with just spoofing domains, they’ve even started using Google Translate to translate the URL to shroud the scam further.

A ‘traditional’ phishing email is sent to the user, who unwittingly clicks on a link that takes them to a webpage with the Google Translate bar, which on mobile devices looks very much like the browser address bar. Victims log in with their credentials and the data harvested.

Easy, no?

Here at Red Sift, we automate BIMI and DMARC processes, making it easy to identify and stop phishing attacks. If you’re interested in learning more about how our platform can help your organization prevent email impersonation attacks and enable employees to spot email threats, then drop one of the team a note.


Clare Holmes

8 Feb. 2019



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