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Recognize and Avoid Email Scams

Email Scams Steal Money and Personal Information

Gone are the days of junk mail in the physical mailbox. Today, scammers don’t have to invest in stamps to attempt to cheat you out of your money or steal your identity. No, the advent of email has increased scam potential and made a host of people vulnerable to thievery at its sneakiest.

It is important to learn to recognize and avoid email scams. In addition, take the initiative to report scam emails whenever you discover them. Let’s help each other avoid potential monetary and social pitfalls.

Three Main Email Scam Categories

While there is a plethora of creative ways in which to mass produce scam emails, it’s relevant to understand that these ideas fall into three broad categories.

First, old-school frauds still abound. Then there are the phishing/social engineering methods. Finally, there are messages that deliver the dreaded Trojan horse.

Suffice it to say, education is the number one way to avoid scam websites and the email they produce.

Old-School Fraud

These scams predate email and used to overflow our home mailboxes. Recently, a list was compiled of the top 10 fraudulent email schemes. These include:

  • Diet and other health related scams
  • Loans or credit that has been “guaranteed”
  • Easy money
  • Chain letters
  • Goods that are marketed as “free”
  • Schemes involving work-from-home ideology
  • Business opportunities that appear bogus or too good to be true
  • Opportunities to invest your money
  • Descrambler kits for cable
  • Participating in bulk email ventures

This list is not exhaustive though and should definitely include the concept of discounted software. Scammers often don’t even have the software they are promising, or they’re using pirated sources that contain Trojan horse viruses. They then use this to gain access to your computer and personal information. Be on your guard whenever software prices seem hard to believe.

Phishing/Social Engineering Email

The worst part about these emails is that they appear to be from legitimate companies and organizations. They then trick you into visiting sites that will infect your computer with malware or convince you to disclose confidential personal information.

These scammers are quite adept at the craft. They make their emails and websites look valid. They can generate forms that appear to be attached to major banks, or public institutions. Specifically, they use the following techniques:

  • Emails asking you to fax back a signed form due to problems with your account.
  • Emails from an IT department designed to access your passwords and infiltrate your network or computer.
  • Emails claiming you have violated the Patriot Act. They claim they’re from the FDIC and request that you fill out an online form in order to verify your identity.
  • Emails that supposedly come from internet service providers, auction services and online payment based sources; again, claiming that there are problems with your account.

Trojan Horse Emails

Virus generated emails are very dangerous. Oft times these will present themselves as emails from someone you are familiar with. This is a very serious issue as many viruses will access an infected computer’s contact list and then email everyone on it.

So if an associate’s computer gets a virus, it may send you an email hoping to proliferate its own existence. If you’re even slightly suspicious of an email, verify it with the person supposedly sending it prior to following any links or opening attachments.

Some of the more common methods used in virus propagation include:

  • Antivirus venders purporting that their free virus sweeper should be installed for your safety.
  • Emails that have a joke link attached; they often include the word “funny” in the subject line.
  • A security bulletin from a software provider that requests the installation of a patch.
  • Virtual postcards.

Email Scams: Recognize & Avoid Them

There are a number of heinous people out there and they are ready and willing to attack your livelihood. They want your personal information and they want access to it now. They will utilize old-school fraud, phishing scams and viruses to achieve their goals.

The best way to protect yourself is to learn how to recognize and avoid their attempts. If you suspect suspicious email activity or have already become a victim, contact us right away. Use the form to the right to share your concerns with us, and we’ll see if eConsumer Services® can help refund your money.