A recent post from a good friend on Facebook revealed a disturbing email scam that tugs at your heartstrings. She opened an email from a familiar email address — a good friend from high school. The email contained a request for money, and went on to explain that her friend was overseas and had lost her wallet and passport. In a compassionate attempt to help her good friend she wired the money to the account number listed on the email. A few days later she learned that the email was a scam, and she had been taken for a great sum of money.
Now my friend is an intelligent woman — educated and certainly not new to the dark-side of email. How could she fall for an email scam that appears to be so transparent? The answer is simple; email scams are becoming more personal and are aimed at the impulsiveness of the reader. They want the reader to act quickly, without thinking. They want you to click, wire or give personal information before you have a chance to see through their scam. Their livelihood depends on it.
Here are some tips to avoid being scammed through email.
Never Wire Money
Criminals like to insist that their victims wire money, especially overseas, because the transaction is harder to trace. Remember that wiring money is like sending cash. The sender has no protection or recourse against loss. A surefire way to protect yourself is to never wire money. Email wire transfer scams include sellers who insist on wire transfer payments and “friends” or “relatives” who are in an emergency situation and need money fast.
Never Click on an Email Link
Never click on a link inside an email, even if you receive it from familiar banking institutions, Pay Pal, eBay or credit card companies. Con artists create convincing emails with links, in hopes that the reader will enter personal information that will be used in a fraudulent manner. If you have a question regarding an account or an email you receive, manually enter the website address into your browser before giving any information. You can also call using the contact numbers listed on your statement. Avoid phishing scams by remembering to only give personal information when you initiate the request.
Never Play a Foreign Lottery
First and foremost, playing foreign lotteries is illegal and could get you into trouble with the law. Secondly, criminals use tempting email lottery invitations to scam you out of your money. Never play a foreign lottery no matter how good the odds are.
Never Deposit a Check from Someone You Don’t Know
A popular email scam with fraudsters is to send out an email telling the recipient they have won a cash prize. To claim the cash, the recipient must pay the taxes via a wire transfer, and deposit the check into their bank account. All appears good until the check is returned as counterfeit. The recipient is then out the “tax” money, and is responsible for any money withdrawn against the counterfeit check.
Only Give to Established Charities
Unfortunately, in the wake of natural disasters, dishonest charities will spring up overnight. These new charities have one mission: to take your money fast and disappear without a trace. Never donate your hard-earned money through an email, and never donate to charities you have never heard of. If you are interested in donating online, enter the charity’s website address into your browser. Never click on an email link, no matter how convincing.
Never Download Information from an Unknown Source
Con artists use computer viruses to gain personal information, obtain contact lists and gain keystroke history. These viruses infect your computer through emailed download opportunities. Before downloading anything, be positive it is from someone you know and trust.
Never Send Money to Online-Only Friends
The Internet has provided many opportunities to meet people all over the globe. Chat rooms, social media sites and online matchmakers are very popular today. Most users have good, friendly intentions, but be aware that there are some who are only after your money. Never send money to people you have never met in person, no matter how long you have chatted online.
Never Invest Through an Email
If you receive an email promoting a low-cost, high-return investment opportunity, stop right there. These investment email scams insist that you act quickly, before the opportunity disappears. Do not fall into the trap; never invest through an email.
Never Buy Products Through an Email
Only buy products online from a reputable seller, and never purchase items from an email you receive. Criminals use familiar product promotion emails to scam you out of your money. If you are interested in a product promotion that you have received from a familiar seller, click out of the email, and enter the seller’s email address into your browser. This will redirect you to the official website of the seller.
Keep Updated on the Latest Email Scams
Fraudsters are always coming up with new email scams to elude their conscientious prey. Stay abreast of the latest email scams by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s website (www.ftc.gov) on a regular basis. If you receive a request for money or personal information through an email, report it to the FTC immediately. You may help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
I am thankful to my friend for posting her email scam experience on her Facebook page. She has brought to light just how clever these con artists are in using familiarity, emotion and impulsiveness to get our money.