Financial Tips – Avoid Common Email Scams

Email scams are on the rise!  Scammers have the ability to target thousands of people in a short period of time, so they can be extremely profitable for these fraudsters.  If you have an email address, there’s a chance you’ve run across an email like this:

Dear sir /madam:

I am Prince Emale Von-Scammermon and I am bazillionaire.  I have chosen you to help me recover my large sums of money from overseas bank.  For your assistance I will share half of my fortune with you.  Please provide to me your bank account information and after you pay small transfer fee of $500 the funds will be wired to your bank account…

Ah…it’s so tempting isn’t it?  For a measly $500 you will pocket half a bazillion dollars!

This is called the Nigerian Check Scam and it has been around for many years.  The emails vary from somewhat unbelievable to extremely unbelievable.  And though many of us wonder who could fall for this nonsense, it still happens.

Email scams can trick even the smartest people.  Let’s take a look at a few examples and see what we can do to avoid them!

Craigslist or other online sales scam:
Unfortunately, Craigslist is a huge target for scammers.  You list a product for sale and someone emails you an offer to buy it sight unseen, for more than you’re selling it for.  Or the buyer wants to pay you by cashier’s check or money order.  They may even offer to send additional money so you can have the item shipped to them and of course some extra dough for your troubles.  RED FLAGS!
If it sounds fishy, it’s probably a scam.

A scammer will send a counterfeit payment.  Then you cash or deposit the payment and ship them the item.  Days later the check is returned as fraudulent.  You are now out the money and whatever you’ve sent them.

Tips to avoid this scam:

  • Trust your gut.
  • Only deal with local buyers and sellers.
  • NEVER wire funds.
  • Accept cashier’s checks or money orders with extreme caution.
  • NEVER share your bank account information.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Phishing Scams:
These email scams lure you to fake websites that resemble legitimate sites like Paypal, Ebay or credit card companies.  The email may prompt you to click a link to their site and update your password, confirm a suspicious purchase, verify your personal information or make a payment.  The email will usually sound urgent and may include attachments.  The goal of this scam is to get you to divulge your personal information.

Tips to avoid this scam:

  • Utilize a spam filter and keep your anti-virus software up to date.
  • Only open email attachments that you are expecting.
  • Do not click embedded links inside of unsolicited emails. Visit websites by typing the address into the address bar.
  • Watch for spelling mistakes and messages from similar sounding but wrong email addresses.
  • If you’re uncertain, contact the company by a known phone number, not one that was provided in the email.

Disaster Relief Scam:
This scam plays on our emotions after huge disasters happen.  You receive an email request to donate to a charity through a website.  There is a chance that this is a phishing attempt.

Tips to avoid this scam:

  • Don’t click on an embedded link inside of the email.
  • Contact a recognized charity directly to help those in need.

There are many different types of email scams so be alert and watch for messages with a sense of urgency or items that need immediate attention.  Take time to spot red flags and cross reference information by doing a web search.  And most importantly, protect your personal information. If you’re not positive why you’re receiving an email or uncertain who it’s from, don’t click!

Until next time, stay safe online!