If you are like me, then you probably receive many emails in your inbox every day. You may receive an annoyingly large number of spam messages as well. Hopefully, you successfully filter most of these spam messages, and aside from taking a little of your bandwidth, they do not actually cause you any harm.
However, as an interesting article from Tech Republic recently pointed out, email scams are an entirely different matter from email spam. Unlike spam that usually just tries to sell you something, email scams are intentionally trying to steal from you or harm your computer system.
According to Tech Republic, these are the top 10 email scams to watch out for:
- Fake Facebook “friend” messages – Check out the screen shots in the Tech Republic article that illustrate the difference between a legitimate friend request and one that is a fake. This is sure to be a growing type of scam as the popularity of social networking increases. Here is a link to another article discussing this problem.
- Fake “admin” messages – Unlike the fake “friend” message, the fake “admin” message attempts to get your attention by pretending to be from “The Facebook Team,” or something similar.
- Fear-mongering emails – This is not a new email scam. The latest in this category uses people’s fear of the H1N1 virus to predict that the virus will strike the U.S. in January, killing 6 out of 10 people. It even states that it is based on information released by the Centers for Disease Control. Be wary of any such emails.
- Account cancellation scams – Around the holidays, this scam becomes more common. You receive an email purporting to be from PayPal, Ebay, the bank, etc., telling you that your account has been, or is being, canceled. The message usually requests that you verify certain account information. Of course, if you do confirm the information, then you have fallen into the scammer’s trap.
- Bogus holiday cards – Who wouldn’t open up a message saying something like, “You have received a holiday greeting from…?” Unfortunately, this scam can be used to download malware onto your computer under the guise that you have received a virtual holiday card from a friend.
- Phantom packages – This scam tells you that a package from a shipping company (e.g., UPS, FedEx, DHL) can’t be delivered to you because of a shipping problem. The message asks you to click on an attached form to fill out to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, there is no package, and hence, no problem to resolve. When clicked on, the attachment downloads malware onto the user’s computer.
- Government threats – According to the Tech Republic article, a scam email is now being sent to users across the Internet, telling them that they are the target of money laundering investigations (or other criminality) by the Dept. of Homeland Security and/or the FBI. The email goes on to tell them that they can avoid prosecution by buying a special certificate from the Economic Financial Crimes Commission Chairman — for only $370. The scam sounds ridiculous, and of course, it is nothing but a hoax. However, this scam plays on the mistrust many have for the government.
- Census scams – Email scammers are using the fact that we are coming upon census-taking time to create fake emails designed to obtain an individual’s personal information. These emails may look quite official and ask for all sorts of personal, household information — including one’s Social Security number. While the Census Bureau does send out email surveys, it does not ask for detailed, personal information online, so don’t respond to these types of emails.
- Fake messages from trusted vendors – This is probably one of the easiest scams to fall victim to because the message appears to be from a vendor you trust, or it appears otherwise reliable. For example, one of the more common scams on the Internet is for the scammer to pretend to be a vendor of anti-virus software. However, when the scammer’s message is opened, or the bogus software is downloaded, the user unwittingly downloads a virus instead of anti-virus software. Pay close attention to these types of messages and any websites of this nature, as they will often look extremely trustworthy.
- Lottery-type scams – There is certainly nothing new about this scam, but it continues unabated across the Internet. Regardless of the particulars, the email scam is always the same. It goes something like this: You are a winner of (or have been selected to receive) a certain thing (usually money or something else of cash value). Give the scammer certain private information about yourself (or maybe even a little money) and the scammer will send you the thing you supposedly have won. Of course, there is no prize, no winnings. The scam is to get your information or the payout. This scam preys on human nature’s desire to be a winner, especially a winner of something financially valuable. It is particularly beguiling in times of economic hardship. If you receive such an email, especially when you know you haven’t entered any sweepstakes or other contests, then chances are, it’s a scam.
If you have received any emails like the ones above, don’t fall victim to them. And, do your friends, family, clients, and colleagues a favor – don’t pass them on!
The Tech Republic article that I used as the source for this post is quite excellent, and is worth taking a look at. As I mentioned, it has many screen shots showing how you can discern fake messages from legit ones, which is particularly helpful when talking about fake Facebook messages and the like, and links to sample scam messages. You can link to the Tech Republic article here.