Man on laptop watched by AI eye concept

With AI evolving rapidly and tech companies going all-in on expanding its role, like Google Gemini, cybercriminals are coming up with better tactics to employ AI-driven phishing emails – and they’re becoming more challenging to spot.

Phishing attacks have existed for as long as the internet, and scammers are constantly developing new methods to steal personal information, banking details, and more. With AI, phishing emails, texts, websites, and more have become more convincing.

As NordVPN tells us, “more than 90% of all cyberattacks begin with phishing and cybercriminals are keen users of AI-driven tools to make phishing attacks more effective.” By using machine learning and natural language processing, scammers have a way to get rid of spelling mistakes and focus on specific details victims can be tricked by.

In this guide, we’ll explore the telltale signs of AI-generated phishing emails and offer essential tips to safeguard your digital identity against the rise in AI phishing scams.

5 ways to spot AI phishing emails

With AI being the driving force behind generating a professional-looking email in seconds, scammers are making it harder for potential victims to know whether an incoming message is genuine.

Cybersecurity companies understand the dangers of this, with Norton stating, “Since AI can analyse vast amounts of publicly available data and better understand the target’s behaviour and preferences, AI-generated personalised phishing emails can be highly effective at deceiving individuals.”

However, scammers still use the usual social-engineering techniques to get your attention, which can be a significant indicator that you can take advantage of.

Here are five indicators you can look out for to help identify potential AI-generated phishing emails:

Generic Greetings

AI-generated emails often use generic greetings like “Dear Customer” instead of addressing you by your name. Legitimate companies usually personalise their emails with your name or username. Scammers will quickly generate many phishing emails using AI, meaning they can forget to add the intended victim’s name. It’s a clear indicator to look out for.

Random Requests for Personal Information

Be cautious of emails asking you to provide sensitive personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers. Legitimate organisations typically don’t request this information via email.

Suspicious Links

Avoid clicking on links in emails from unknown senders or emails that seem suspicious. Hover over the link to see the URL it leads to. If the URL looks suspicious or doesn’t match the purported sender’s website, it could be a phishing attempt.

BNZ Text Scam Message
BNZ Text Scam Message via BNZ

These text messages often include a link to a fake website for customers to enter their login details. However, this allows the hacker to access their accounts instead. This could be for social media platforms or banks, allowing attackers full access. Never click on the link if you receive these types of messages.

Urgent or Threatening Language

Phishing emails often use urgent or threatening language to pressure you into taking immediate action. Be sceptical of emails claiming that your account will be suspended unless you act quickly or you need to make a payment now or you’ll be fined.

Many banking scams use this method, similar to the email below. This threatening language is unusual for a bank, showcasing that it’s likely from an illegitimate source.

Example scam email from British Bank Business
Example scam email from British Bank Business

Spoofed Email Addresses

Check the sender’s email address carefully. Scammers often use email addresses that are similar to legitimate ones but contain slight variations or misspellings.

Amazon.com, Action needed Sign-in attempt scam Example

Look out for misspellings in the email address. In this case, if the URL doesn’t appear to be “Amazon.com” or “Amazon.co.uk” or country-specific, don’t trust it. Cybercriminals may use names that look like they come from Amazon, but they are often misspelt or include periods (“.”) in random points of the address. If it’s from Amazon, it should simply be “example@amazon.com.”

How to protect yourself from AI phishing

Since AI can be challenging to detect, seeing as emails look a lot more convincing, it’s a good idea to stay vigilant when receiving a random email from a suspicious source or it offers details that don’t seem right.

Before opening a link in an email, text, or message, especially from an unknown source, it’s best to use a URL checker such as NordVPN Link Checker. It’s a free tool that notifies users of fake websites and phishing scams using public and private resources.

Another great tool is Norton Genie, a free AI scam detector app. From learning potential real-world scam messages, the AI-driven app learns and adapts from these and can notify other users if they receive similar messages or links to dodgy websites.

Using the best antivirus software is a sure-fire way to beat any cyberattack or malware. With advanced security tools to detect malicious links in files, emails, and websites, it’s an excellent way to protect your devices, as it can identify and stop malicious cyber threats – even if they are AI-generated.

Find out more about phishing attacks, along with ransomware and infostealer malware. Check below for the best antivirus you can get.

Best Antivirus in 2024

1. Norton 360 🥇From $19.99/year
Best overall antivirus of 2023

Norton 360 on Laptop scaled

“Norton” and “antivirus” are synonymous these days, as the well-established cybersecurity brand has successfully fought against malware, viruses and nasty software threats since 1990. 

Norton 360 offers excellent antivirus protection and extra features that make for a valuable, all-in-one security product. Its Norton 360 Deluxe and Premium package may cost a pretty penny. Still, with security across multiple platforms, a full-blown VPN, Dark Web Monitoring, Parental Controls and more, it will have a household free of cyber threats. 

Norton’s certainty of its antivirus software’s capabilities is clearly defined by the brand’s 100% Virus Protection Promise. If a device protected by Norton 360 can’t get rid of a virus, the user receives their money back. It’s a big claim, but unquestionably, no one should expect to get that refund.

If you have the money for it, you can also check out the premium Norton 360 Platinum package for even more online protection, including from identity theft. Without a doubt one of the best antivirus to get.

Read our full Norton 360 review

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2. Bitdefender 🥈 From $19.99/year
Best security features and tools

Bitdefender Lead Image scaled

Bitdefender takes the spot as best antivirus, and for good reason. It’s not enough that it boasts near-perfect lab test scores across the board, as it goes the extra mile by giving users access to a plethora of advanced security features.

Bitdefender goes above and beyond in the features department, all while keeping known malware, ransomware, and viruses at bay. It will defend your device against new attacks, provide security for online transactions, keep you safe with a reliable VPN, and protect your accounts with a password manager.

It’s a no-brainer when it comes to defending your devices against virtually any form of cyberattack, and its top-notch protection extends to its most affordable package, too. Protecting your PC and smartphone, from Windows and macOS to iOS and Android, is becoming even more necessary, and Bitdefender is the tricked-out shield you need. 

Read our full Bitdefender review

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3. Malwarebytes 🥉 From $44.99/year
Best antivirus for Windows PC

Malwarebytes Logo scaled

Hundreds of malware emerge every minute, and it’s Malwarebytes’ mission to detect and conquer them all. Does the antivirus do this successfully? Yes, but there’s wiggle room for improvements.

Malwarebytes’ no-nonsense approach to protecting your devices from the onslaught of malware and viruses is effective for those who need a reliable antivirus that will detect and remove malicious software, especially with its free version. However, while its premium service provides 24/7 real-time detection, conveniently blocks vicious ransomware and shields users from malicious websites, it doesn’t go beyond on the feature front.

That’s no bad thing, as sometimes a user only needs a powerful antivirus to keep them safe from cyber threats. But considering its competitors add a few more security tools, such as data breach monitoring and a firewall, there’s room for improvement. 

Read our full Malwarebytes review

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4. Avast One 🙌 From $39.99/year
Best antivirus for beginners + free plan available!

Avast One logo on laptop

With Avast One, you can protect your device from viruses, malware and ransomware for free. That’s right, and you don’t have to pay a dime for the extra security features the antivirus throws in, including its VPN, firewall and more.

Avast One will safeguard your device from malware, comes with ransomware protection, blocks harmful websites and downloads from the web, scans your emails for malicious attachments, stops hackers from infiltrating your device through Wi-Fi with a firewall – the list goes on. That’s a lot of tools for software that’s free, and the included VPN and the ability to speed up your PC are a welcome bonus.

It’s the ideal antivirus software for home use, as it takes the hassle out of staying wary of cyber threats lurking around, even if you’re not a tech whizz. What’s more, if you are looking for added precautions, its paid Individual and Family packages still boast great value. Hard to go wrong with this best antivirus.

Read our full Avast One review

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5. AVG👍 From 4.99/month
Best antivirus for + free plan available!

AVG Antivirus logo scaled

You can never go wrong with free antivirus protection, but some deliver even better detection and protection rates, along with extra security features, without costing a dime. This is where AVG antivirus shines.

AVG provides reliable protection and only a small impact on performance for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It safeguards your devices against malware, viruses and zero-day exploits, along with blocking malicious links and attachments in emails. Throw in phishing protection when surfing the internet and extra security features such as its SafePrice browser extension and Network Inspector, and you’ve got yourself a do-it-all antivirus.

Sure, you can find all of these perks with Avast, but if you like a slick, darker user interface that’s easy to navigate, then AVG is for you.

Read our full AVG Antivirus review

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Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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