If you are wondering about the difference between Spam and Phishing, you will find the answers in this article.

Phishing vs. Spam - What is the difference?

Spam and phishing are something that everyone has encountered at least once. Though both of them cause extreme nuisance to the receiver, they are very inherently different in nature.

According to dataprot sources, 45% of all emails sent are spam emails.

Identity theft is the top goal of 73% of all phishing scams. Thus, in the world we live in today it is important to know the difference.

In this article, we will find what is the difference between Spam and Phishing.

What is spam?

Spam, or usually known as junk mail, is sent on a mass basis to everyone. It is used as a means for selling products or services or to advertise to more people in hopes to increase revenue for the people behind it. Spammers acquire emails from a huge number of people and send out these spam mail to them. Usually, Gmail or Outlook does a good job to put them in the junk or spam tab on the inbox.

Many spam emails do not contain any harmful malware or any other harmful attachments. However, it is always a good idea to not download any attachments from sources you cannot verify.

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Spam is used as an umbrella term to define junk emails, junk phone calls, junk SMS, etc. Spam emails are usually sent for commercial purposes and do not usually contain any malicious intent.

Spam emails are usually commercial in nature and not malicious. Spam emails include chain forwards, newsletters, offers/deals on sales, unwanted newsletters.  

What is Phishing?

Phishing on the other hand is expressly designed to dupe the receiver of their personal information. Phishing is inherently designed to cause harm and steal data from the people that it is intended to be sent. Phishing often takes the form of legitimate looking websites from a trusted sender and asks the person to input their personal information.

Phishing emails often target bank credentials, passwords, social media logins and passwords, and other valuable information.

Phishing emails are made with the intent to cause harm to the receiver. It involves attempting to access the victim’s personal accounts, personal system or even bank credentials. It is done by tricking the victim into believing that the email of from a verified source (usually under the disguise that there is something wrong with the account) and that they need to share their information to fix the problem.

Albeit, phishing scams can also occur through the medium of SMS and Phone calls. The perpetrator will disguise themselves to ask you to share your personal information or more commonly ask you to share any OTP you may have received.

Know more on phishing and how to protect yourself from it – Click here

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Key difference between Spam and Phishing


While spam is usually harmless, sent out to people of commercial nature, Phishing emails are sent out as a scam to steal your private information. While technically, phishing scams can come under scam but phishing has a malicious intent while spam doesn’t.

Scams are sent out with commercial nature, trying to advertise a product or service that they want you to buy. Phishing is done to gain access to one’s private information.

Spam is flooding millions of people with the same message in hope that someone will buy the product or service that they are trying to commercially sell. On the other hand, Phishing scams are done to gather information – like your usernames, passwords, banking details, etc. Although, phishing scams can also be done to gain access into a private network or try to infect it with malware to cause harm or create a back door for the person to gain access into it.

Phishing scams are usually done in a targeted manner. The cybercriminal may pool his time and resources to dupe one person or multiple people depending on their intent. This means that they can personalize the scam and make it highly convincing and difficult to differentiate from the official emails.

Scams on the other hand are sent out in bulk. They almost always do not take their time to target a specific individual.

FAQs on the difference between Spam and Phishing:

  1. Can spam emails be dangerous or harm my device?

    Spam emails are usually commercial in nature are not inherently bad. Spam emails by their nature are meant to advertise the products.

  2. How can I avoid spam emails?

    One cannot completely avoid getting spam emails, but you can keep in mind where all you put your email while signing in. You can always have a secondary account, which you can use to sign up for various services.

  3. How can I avoid phishing emails?

    Phishing emails are sometimes sent in batches when cyber criminals somehow get to know your email. You cannot completely avoid it, but you can keep an eye on the sender and their validity. Almost always, your email service will automatically put these emails in junk/spam folder.

  4. How can I differentiate proper emails from spam/phishing emails?

    Always check the sender’s email ID/number. Reverse Google search the email ID or the phone number to see if it’s from the official source. In general, if they ask you to open the website and there it asks for personal information, it is fake. Bank authorities themselves do not ask for any personal information.

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