Email Scams: How to Identify Them and How to Protect Yourself

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Email scams are unsolicited emails that fraudsters use to get you to share valuable personal information such as passwords, account numbers, bank details, social security numbers, and debit or credit card details. These emails use deceptive means like forging the sender’s address, logos and phone numbers to trick you. The most popular form of email scams includes:

  • Phishing emails – these are sent from spoofed email addresses. The email may hold a link that directs you to a falsified site that looks like the real website of the institution they are trying to imitate, in a bid to encourage you to reveal your personal details.
  • Nigerian scams – these emails often look like they are coming from overseas and will ask you to send money and in return, a lump sum amount will be deposited into your account.
  • Schemes and lottery wins – these scams require you to send money to claim various ‘prizes.’
  • Pharmaceutical scams – these emails offer “amazing” products that claim to boost appearance, virility or health.

How to identify email scams:

1. Confirm who the sender is

One of the best ways to spot a scam is by checking the address the email has been sent from for spoofing. The scammer may have changed the name of the sender to make it look like that of the company they are pretending to contact you from. However, most scam emails have odd looking emails behind the sender’s name. Therefore, hover your cursor over the sender name and then right click to see the email behind it.

2. Impersonal greeting

Your PayPal, bank, Amazon and other legitimate institutions know your name. A scammer doesn’t. Although some scammers may send emails that include your name in the first line of the message, most of their emails just say “Hi” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” They do not mention your name. Some will put your email address after “Hi.” Check all your emails to see how they address you in your email. The most impersonal greeting is a sign that the sender may be a scammer.

3. Contact details and dates

Always check the “contact us” details provided at the bottom of the email.

  • Is it clickable?
  • Does it lead to anything?
  • Are the pages it links to genuine?

If the answer to any, or all of these questions is “NO,” then this could be an indication of an email scam. In case you do not want to click on the link, simply hover your cursor over the link. The web address of where the link goes to will appear at the bottom left-hand corner of your web browser.

Also, check to see whether all the dates are up to date.

4. Discount software offers

Most of these scams advertise cheap versions of commercial software like Photoshop or Windows 10. They offer huge discounts that are sometimes hard to believe. However, most times, after you purchase this software, the scammer sends you illegally pirated versions that are preloaded with Trojan horse software that they will use to exploit your computer. Other times, the scammers will take your money and not deliver anything.

5. Spelling and grammar

Most of these emails contain a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. These also lack consistency in their presentation which often includes mismatched logos, different font styles, and sizes.

How to protect yourself against scammers

Today, scammers are getting more sophisticated in how they lure people into giving out their personal information. Therefore, you need to be vigilant and take extra measures to protect yourself.

Email Scams

Be alert when it comes to email scams

Do not open suspicious emails, attachments, links or pop-up windows. Only open attachments that you are expecting and not those that appear out of the blue. This way, you will significantly reduce your chances of falling victim to such attacks. Also, be wary of emails asking for your personal details especially bank information.

Acquaint yourself with a website’s privacy policy before signing up

Most legitimate websites have a privacy policy at the footer of their page. Check to see whether the website will be selling its mailing list or not. This is important because most of the potentially dangerous phishing emails and spam you receive come due to a site you signed up to selling its mailing list to another company. If you are not okay with a company selling your email address, you should reconsider signing up for the site.

Beware of threats and urgent deadlines

Be wary of emails that include threats like notices about fines, or companies asking you to change passwords immediately. This is a clear sign of a scammer trying to pressure you into providing your personal data. In case you receive such emails, contact the merchant directly to confirm the authenticity of the email.

Do not submit confidential information via forms embedded within an email message

A sender can easily track all the information you have filled. And with this information, extorting you becomes easy.

Invest in efficient software to combat phishing

Some software automatically detects and blocks email scams and fraudulent websites. They also authenticate shopping sites and major banking systems. They include spam filters, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewalls. Ensure that you invest in the latest state of the art software and update them regularly.

Browse securely with HTTPS

Always use a secure website that has a security “lock” icon in the browser’s address bar to browse. Additionally, keep your browser up to date to ensure it doesn’t have any weaknesses that a scammer might discover and take advantage of.

Review your email privacy and security settings. Take time to familiarize yourself with privacy and safety settings of your email and social media pages to ensure you stay safe.

Wrapping up

These are just some of the ways that you can use to protect yourself from falling victim to email scams. However, the most important factor to ensure your safety is to be alert at all time. Being aware of what email scams look like and how you can protect yourself will go a long way in ensuring your safety. With every passing day, scammers come up with new ways to conduct fraudulent activities online. Stay up to date with new developments to ensure total security.

Gary Braniff blogs about Technology Security News, Tips and How To’s. He is a computer whiz who has accrued more than twenty years of experience in the computer networking field. Based out of Mineral City, Ohio, he is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and the author of https://techsecurityblog.com.

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