Four of the most common email scams are:
- The Imitator – Many scams imitate legitimate companies in an effort to fool consumers. The simplest way to avoid these fakes is to never click on a link sent in an unsolicited e-mail. (For example, if “Comcast or Bank of America” sends you an email about your account and asks for your information.) Find the company link on your own using a search engine, or, if you know the company address, type it in yourself.
- The Urgent Offer – These scams are the “if it sounds too good to be true” - it probably is, partnered with a time factor wanting you to rush to get the deal.
- The Official Notice – These are very similar to the Imitator, but are trying to convince you to take action to solve an issue. A common one we have seen is that “your email is full” and you have to enter your information to enlarge your inbox. Another example is an email that states your account is overdue and asks you to send money to pay the balance.
- The Lottery - Foreign lottery scams are rampant. If you did not enter a lottery, you did not win a lottery. (We know, we know – we wish we could win the lottery, too.) If you did enter the lottery, you still are very unlikely to win, and you would not be notified via e-mail. (You’ve seen prize winners. They get HUGE checks that couldn’t possibly fit into an email.) This is a straightforward scam to get your information.
So what can you do? Here are some ways to spot the scam:
- Threats - The scam goes from apologizing for any inconvenience to threatening the recipient in an effort to scare you into responding. Companies are not going to threaten you and certainly won’t send threats in an e-mail that randomly selected you for maintenance.
- The offer is from a company you’ve never heard of - This is really the only identifier needed to know that this is fake. The second clue is that their e-mail address does not match the company. Look after the @ symbol. If the email is from TMNT it should show @TMNT and not anything else. Hackers like to steal people email accounts and send out thousands of emails so frequently you will see a person’s personal email account. Again this is a scam and just delete.
- The name of recipient isn't yours - If the name on the To: line isn't yours, then you’re one of the thousands (maybe millions) of names hidden on the Bcc: line.
- The email is urging you to make a financial transaction under time pressure - If you feel you have to act quickly, you are more likely to react without thoroughly investigating. Take the time and investigate!
- You are singled out for an ‘exclusive’ opportunity - Ask yourself: why would a company you don’t know single you out?
- You are asked to enter financial information - They want you to enter financial information so they can instantly show you your adjusted mortgage rate. In fact, entering personal financial information on sites you aren’t absolutely sure are safe is almost sure to result in someone stealing from you.
- Increased urgency, more time pressure is applied - Notice that they can only guarantee this great rate ‘for three more days’, but no actual dates are given.
- The sender is a person - No organization is going to send a notice from a personal e-mail, and they will use their organization’s e-mail, not a free e-mail service.