Spam vs. Phishing – What’s the Difference?

You’ve no doubt been advised to report any suspicious emails that land in your inbox to your company’s administrator or IT provider (that would be us) but how do you know if an email is a malicious phishing attempt or just spam from a legitimate company? Knowing the difference will help you determine if you need to alert us.

Phishing emails are dangerous in that they attempt to get you to reveal sensitive information such as your usernames, passwords and credit card information. They are designed to look like legitimate emails from reputable companies or even a department within your own company. The trick is they ask you to click on a link or open an attachment and have a sense of urgency to them. If you suspect an email is phishy, you should delete it or you can forward it to so we can determine if it is a phishing email and block it if necessary. We can even show you how to block unwanted email yourself.

Spam, on the other hand, is unwanted or unsolicited email that is usually sent for marketing purposes. Spam emails are from real companies but usually don’t ask you to take a specific action. Although they can be annoying, it’s not uncommon to receive spam in your business email. These types of emails do not typically need to be reported unless you suspect they pose a threat to your organization. In most cases, spam can be ignored or deleted. Still you should exercise caution when clicking on any links or opening attachments in any email. You should first hover your mouse over a link – but don’t click – to see the link-to address.

Always follow your organization’s policy regarding what type of email to report.

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