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1. Emails Demanding Urgent Action

Emails threatening a negative consequence, or a loss of opportunity unless urgent action is taken, are often phishing emails. Attackers often use this approach to rush recipients into action before they have had the opportunity to study the email for potential flaws or inconsistencies.

2. Emails with Bad Grammar and Spelling Mistakes

Another way to spot phishing is bad grammar and spelling mistakes. Many companies apply spell-checking tools to outgoing emails by default to ensure their emails are grammatically correct. Those who use browser-based email clients apply autocorrect or highlight features on web browsers.

3. Emails with an Unfamiliar Greeting or Salutation

Emails exchanged between work colleagues usually have an informal salutation. Those that start “Dear,” or contain phrases not normally used in informal conversation, are from sources unfamiliar with the style of office interaction used in your business and should arouse suspicion.

4. Inconsistencies in Email Addresses, Links & Domain Names

Another way how to spot phishing is by finding inconsistencies in email addresses, links and domain names. Does the email originate from an organization corresponded with often? If so, check the sender’s address against previous emails from the same organization. Look to see if a link is legitimate by hovering the mouse pointer over the link to see what pops up. If an email allegedly originates from (say) Google, but the domain name reads something else, report the email as a phishing attack.

5. Suspicious Attachments

Most work-related file sharing now takes place via collaboration tools such as SharePoint, OneDrive or Dropbox. Therefore internal emails with attachments should always be treated suspiciously – especially if they have an unfamiliar extension or one commonly associated with malware (.zip, .exe, .scr, etc.).

6. Emails Requesting Login Credentials, Payment Information or Sensitive Data

Emails originating from an unexpected or unfamiliar sender that request login credentials, payment information or other sensitive data should always be treated with caution. Spear phishers can forge login pages to look similar to the real thing and send an email containing a link that directs the recipient to the fake page. Whenever a recipient is redirected to a login page, or told a payment is due, they should refrain from inputting information unless they are 100% certain the email is legitimate.

7. Too Good to Be True Emails

Too good to be true emails are those which incentivize the recipient to click on a link or open an attachment by claiming there will be a reward of some nature. If the sender of the email is unfamiliar or the recipient did not initiate the contact, the likelihood is this is a phishing email.


Different types of phishing attacks (as posted by Microsoft Security)

Phishing attacks come from scammers disguised as trustworthy sources and can facilitate access to all types of sensitive data. As technologies evolve, so do cyberattacks. Learn about the most pervasive types of phishing.

  • Email phishing

    The most common form of phishing, this type of attack uses tactics like phony hyperlinks to lure email recipients into sharing their personal information. Attackers often masquerade as a large account provider like Microsoft or Google, or even a coworker.

  • Malware phishing

    Another prevalent phishing approach, this type of attack involves planting malware disguised as a trustworthy attachment (such as a resume or bank statement) in an email. In some cases, opening a malware attachment can paralyze entire IT systems.

  • Spear phishing

    Where most phishing attacks cast a wide net, spear phishing targets specific individuals by exploiting information gathered through research into their jobs and social lives. These attacks are highly customized, making them particularly effective at bypassing basic cybersecurity.

  • Whaling

    When bad actors target a “big fish” like a business executive or celebrity, it’s called whaling. These scammers often conduct considerable research into their targets to find an opportune moment to steal login credentials or other sensitive information. If you have a lot to lose, whaling attackers have a lot to gain.

  • Smishing

    A combination of the words “SMS” and “phishing,” smishing involves sending text messages disguised as trustworthy communications from businesses like Amazon or FedEx. People are particularly vulnerable to SMS scams, as text messages are delivered in plain text and come across as more personal.

  • Vishing

    In vishing campaigns, attackers in fraudulent call centers attempt to trick people into providing sensitive information over the phone. In many cases, these scams use social engineering to dupe victims into installing malware onto their devices in the form of an app.