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Even tech-savvy Gmail users are getting fooled by this phishing scam

Cybercriminals are lurking around every corner of the internet, searching for their next victims. They will use everything in their arsenal to steal our personal information and money. Malware, ransomware and phishing attacks to name a few.

In many cases these fraudsters make simple mistakes, like poor spelling and grammar, that tip us off to their scams. However, there is an extremely effective phishing scam that is difficult to detect hitting Gmail accounts right now that you need to know about.

What makes this phishing attack so frightening

This attack is just very convincing. Gmail users are receiving emails from people in their contacts list who have already been hacked.

The fraudulent email looks even more authentic because the scammer goes through the senders’ messages to find a topic that you are probably familiar with.

Think about this: Getting an email from someone you know, talking about a familiar topic makes it more likely for you to lower your guard and fall for the scam.

Inside the fake email is what looks like a PDF attachment. In reality, this is a malicious link. Once you click on the image, a new tab will open and you will be asked to sign in to Gmail again.

The location bar of the fake sign-in page is even tricking people. It contains the, which is expected. However, the beginning of the location bar has items in front of the https: that should not be there.

Be sure to notice the text in the link so you know what to look for and not be scammed!


The prefix data:text/html gives away the fact that this is a fake web page. (Image source: Wordfence)

As you can see in the image above, the location bar contains data:text/html in front of the https:. Some people are missing this fact and trusting the site because the looks correct.

Then, the scammers take it a step further. They have created a sign-in screen that looks very official. Look at the image below.


Clicking on the fake PDF found in the malicious email takes you to an official looking Google sign in page that looks like this.

If you sign in this page, you’re done. The cybercriminal has your login credentials and your account is compromised.

The scammer now can control your email address and can use it to access other websites associated with this account. It’s a very authentic phishing attack.

How to protect your account

One thing that tips this off as a scam is the fact that even though you are already logged into your Gmail account, it asks you to log in again on another tab. This makes no sense. Why would you need to sign in again?

You should also know how to avoid phishing scams. Here are a few ideas that will help:

  • Check to see if your email account has been hacked  The Have I Been Pwned site will help you with this. Click here to find out how the site works.
  • Be cautious with links – If you get an email or notification that you find suspicious, don’t click on its links. It’s better to type the website’s address directly into a browser. Before you ever click on a link, hover over it with your mouse to see where it is going to take you. If the destination isn’t what the link claims, do not click on it.
  • Do an online search – If you get a notification about something that seems shady, do an online search on the topic. If it’s a scam, there are probably people online complaining about it and you can find more information.
  • Watch for typos – Phishing scams are infamous for having typos. If you receive an email or notification from a reputable company, it should not contain typos.
  • Know what phishing emails look like – Typically, there are signs that give away the fact that an email is fake. Can you spot one? Take our phishing IQ test to find out.
  • Use multi-level authentication – When available, you should be using multi-level authentication. This is when you have at least two forms of verification, such as a password and a security question before you log into any sensitive accounts. Click here to learn more about two-factor authentication.
  • Have strong security software – Having strong protection on your family’s gadgets is very important. The best defense against digital threats is strong security software.

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