Spam vs Phishing Emails… what’s the difference?

spamBy now, most of us have heard the terms spam and phishing and know they have to do with email, but have you ever wondered what the difference is between the two?

Spam, or junk mail, is unsolicited email that tries to sell you a product or service, such as the “latest and greatest” diet pill or some form of “cutting edge, high-quality” software.  Spammers (ie: the people sending the spam) send their messages to hundreds, thousands or even MILLIONS of email addresses at once with the hopes that at least a few people will respond.

Phishing email, on the other hand, is a specific type of spam that tries to trick you into giving your personal information, like your Login ID and Password or credit card number. Rather than try to get you to buy something, phishing messages usually have a threatening tone in an attempt to fool you into thinking something bad will happen if you don’t respond. For example, the message might say something along the lines of “if you don’t provide your login ID and Password immediately, your account will be deleted!”. Supplying a phisher with your information puts you at risk to a number of negative consequences, from hundreds of thousands of spam emails being sent from your email address, to even more serious issues like bank or cell phone accounts being opened in your name.

At this point, you might be thinking “why would anyone give their personal information to a phisher?” Well, the tricky part is that phishers pretend to be someone you know, like a bank or even a department from right here at UNB, to make you think they are trustworthy. That’s why it’s so important to keep in mind that ITS or any other UNB department will NEVER, under any circumstance, ask you for your login information via email or web form. Anyone asking for this type of information via email is undoubtedly a fraud. If you receive an email and are having any doubts as to whether you should respond or not, just contact the ITS Help Desk and they will let you know if it’s safe.

For more information on phishing, including how to recognize phishing emails and what to do if you receive one, visit ITS’s Email Security webpage


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