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Home Ask Hoax-Slayer What is the Difference Between Phishing and Malware Scams?

What is the Difference Between Phishing and Malware Scams?

by Brett M. Christensen

Question from reader:

I know that many people get scammed by phishing and malware. But what are the differences between these two scam types. Or are they essentially the same thing? 


Phishing and malware attacks use quite different tactics although both have the goal of stealing your personal and financial information and/or gaining access to your accounts.


Phishing scams

In a phishing attack, the scammers want you to click a link or open an attached file and supply personal information such as account login credentials and credit card details. Typically, you will be taken to a fake website that is designed to emulate a genuine bank or company webpage and asked to supply your details.

The criminals will then use this information to hijack your account and conduct fraudulent activities. They may:

  • Steal your money
  • Conduct banking or credit card fraud
  • Steal your identity
  • Use your accounts to launch further scam and spam campaigns

Malware Scams

Malware is short for ‘malicious software’.  As with phishing, malware messages typically try to trick you into clicking links or opening attached files.

However, instead of asking you to provide your personal information directly, clicking the link or opening the attachment may install malicious software on your computer without your knowledge.

Typically, this malware can collect sensitive information such as passwords and usernames from your computer and send it to criminals. It may also download and install further malware.

And, the malware may join your computer to a ‘botnet’.  A botnet is a large collection of infected computers that criminals can control from afar. Botnets are often used to conduct spam and scam campaigns. For example, a botnet may be used to send phishing scam emails to hundreds of thousands of potential victims.

Thus, phishing and malware attacks are different but related tools in the online criminal’s toolkit.

Further Reading

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,