Beware of Email Scams

The internet presents opportunities for cyber-thieves to trick unsuspecting web users into giving them personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, passwords, or other sensitive information).

Here’s a list of some of the most common email scams to be aware of:

1. Phishing. This is an email that appears to come from a business where you have an account. It tells you that you need to do something like “update” or “validate” or “confirm” your account information, or something terrible will happen, like your account will be cancelled. If you click on their link they may ask you for your bank account number, credit card numbers, or other personal information. These emails look legitimate, but don’t fall for it. They copy real company logos that look very real. If you ever get this type of request, get on the phone and call the company to see if they are REALLY requesting this info. Be sure to get the phone number from a source other than the email. Never give out personal information online or on the phone unless YOU initiate a transaction or activity---and even then be VERY cautious. Forward spam that is phishing for information to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. Most organizations have information on their websites about where to report problems.

Ebay has an excellent Spoof Email Tutorial website to help you identify fake and dangerous email and protect your private information.

2. You are told you’ve been chosen as a representative in your country to accept a large amount of cash in return for being paid well. Perhaps they add that you were referred to them by someone who knows you to be honest. The person has a lot of money, maybe from an inheritance, a business deal, life insurance, etc. They ask you to provide them with your bank account number so that they have an account to transfer the funds into. When they arrive in the country, they say, they will take their money, minus a large commission that you get to keep for your help. Actually, what they intend to do with your account information is steal your money. Do not respond to these requests, but report them to your internet service provider.

3. You’ve won a contest! You may get an email telling you that you’ve won something, perhaps in a drawing. Then you’re asked to send $29.95 or some such amount to pay for shipping and insurance. They may even send you a product, but if they do, it will be a very cheap product, not worth the money you’ve sent. If it sounds too good to be true, call an agency in your government and ask about the company before sending any money.

4. Just because you read it in an email (or the paper, or anywhere else) DOES NOT MAKE IT TRUE. Learn to question emails that tell dramatic (especially fear-mongering) stories – most of these fall into the category of urban myths and simply aren’t true. If you have doubts, consult www.snopes.com. This is THE source for the verification (or, more commonly, debunking) of these email urban myths. If nothing else, reading the entries at this site is entertaining.

Remember, internet scams are very common, and not something to take personally. Just train yourself to recognize these scams and protect your private information.

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