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Understanding the Different Types of Phishing Scams


Cybercriminals continue to improve the tools they use for phishing scams. They steal money, identities, credentials, and more every day from individuals and organizations. Even the most cyber-savvy users can be scammed if they don’t pay close attention. To protect yourself, it’s helpful to understand the different types of phishing scams.

Email Phishing Scams

Email is the most popular type of phishing scams. Victims open and act on phishing emails that include fake domain names and redirected URLs. The email’s subject line and content often look legitimate and designed to get a response. Cybercriminals use many tricks to gain your trust, hoping you won’t notice.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a version of email phishing scams that targets recipients by name, known interests, work relationships, friendships, and other details. With social engineering, scammers scour social media to gather information about targets. Using public information and data from breaches, cybercriminals develop targeted email attacks.


Whaling is a type of spear phishing that targets those at upper levels of management who control of funds. Leaders are not spoof-proof and are vulnerable to the same phishing tricks that target staff. Here are some tips to help ward off whaling.

Smishing and Vishing

Smishing uses SMS and text messages for phishing scams. The text message usually has a legitimate-looking link and sometimes includes the first or last few numbers of an account. Victims assume it is legitimate and then take steps that compromise an account and other confidential information.

Vishing attacks are voice calls, many robocalls, that intend to scare recipients into responding with confidential information.


Also called URL or domain hijacking (do-jacking), typosquatting uses incorrect spellings for URLs, or typos a user does without realizing. Minor deviations in spelling can bring you to a look-alike, spoof website. Many of these sites can disappear immediately after stealing your payment card and other information.

Angler Phishing

One of newest and fastest-growing phishing scams is angler phishing. It uses social media spoof sites to trick users into providing information. These sites often masquerade as social media customer service and ask for sensitive information. They often threaten to close the account or take other action if the data isn’t provided.

For more articles on phishing scams, cybersecurity and related topics, visit Mid Oregon’s Security and Fraud Center.

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