Email and the Internet is a wonderful resource that has revolutionized the way humans communicate and access information. Unfortunately, it has also proven to be a fertile medium for the unscrupulous and the morally challenged. Scammers regularly use email in attempts to steal money or personal information from unsuspecting victims. Those inexperienced in the ways of the Internet are especially vulnerable to these scammers.
The good news is that it is not difficult to learn how to recognise scam attempts that arrive via email. Included below are descriptions of three of the most common types of email driven scams as well as some general indicators that should help you recognize scam emails.
You may receive an email from a bank/online service provider/ financial institution that asks you to click a link and visit a website in order to provide personal information. Such an email is more than likely the type of Internet scam known as "phishing".
A phisher scam is one in which victims are tricked into providing personal information such as account numbers and passwords to what they believe to be a legitimate company or organization. In order to carry out this trick, the scammers often create a "look-a-like" website that is designed to resemble the target company's official website. Typically, emails are used as "bait" in order to get the potential victim to visit the bogus website. Be wary of any email that asks you to click on a link and provide sensitive personal information such as banking details. Information submitted on these bogus websites is harvested by the scammers and may then be used to steal funds from the user's accounts and/or steal the victim's identity.
Most legitimate companies would not request sensitive information from customers via email. DO NOT click on the links in these emails. DO NOT provide any information about yourself. If you have any doubts at all about the veracity of an email, contact the company directly.
You may receive an email/letter/fax that asks for your help to access a large sum of money in a foreign bank account. The message says that you will get a percentage of the funds in exchange for your help.
In all probability, the message is an example of the type of scam known as a Nigerian or "419" scam. The "large sum of money" does not exist. The messages are an opening gambit designed to draw potential victims deeper into the scam. Those who initiate a dialogue with the scammers by replying to the scam messages will eventually be asked for advance fees supposedly required to allow the deal to proceed. They may also become the victims of identity theft. The scammers use a variety of stories to explain why they need your help to access the funds.
- They may claim that political climate or legal issues preclude them from accessing funds in a foreign bank account.
- They may claim that your last name is the same as that of the deceased person who owned the account and suggest that you act as the Next of Kin of this person in order to gain access to the funds.
- They may claim that a rich merchant, who has a terminal illness, needs your help to distribute his or her wealth to charity.
If you receive one of these scam emails, it is important that you do not respond to it in any way. The scammers are likely to act upon any response from those they see as potential victims.
You may receive an email/letter/fax that claims that you have won a great deal of money in an international lottery even though you have never bought a ticket. The email may claim that your email address was randomly chosen out of a large pool of addresses as a "winning entry". Such emails are almost certainly fraudulent. In some cases, the emails claim to be endorsed by well-known companies such as Microsoft or include links to legitimate lottery organization websites. Any relationships implied by these endorsements and links will be completely bogus.
There is no lottery and no prize. Those who initiate a dialogue with the scammers by replying to the messages will be first asked to provide a great deal of personal information. Eventually, they will be asked to send money, ostensibly to cover expenses associated with delivery of the supposed "winnings". They may also become the victims of identity theft. DO NOT respond to these messages. DO NOT supply any personal information what so ever to the scammers.
General Scam Indicators:
The scams described above are some of the most common types of Internet fraud. However, these fraudsters are clever people who may use many variations of the above scams to achieve their nefarious ends.
In general, be wary of unsolicited emails that:
By taking the time to educate yourself about these common types of scam, and/or by sharing this information with others, you can make a valuable contribution to the war against Internet fraud.
- Promise you money, jobs or prizes
- Ask for donations,
- Propose lucrative business deals,
- Ask you to provide sensitive personal information
- Ask you to follow a link to a website and log on to an account.
Article courtesy by Brett Christensen:
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