The 5 Biggest Email Scams and How to Avoid Them

Soggy bread.

When you accidentally push the Q-tip in too far and hurt your ear.

Any interview with Kanye West.

These are the only things worse than falling victim to an email scam.

Even the savviest Internet user can be duped by some of the email scams floating around. And, as the scammers become more sophisticated, their scams become even more believable.

How to Recognise a Scam

The first rule of avoiding an email scam is recognising it. Some are easier to spot than others, so let’s take a look at some of the biggest ones currently making their way into millions of inboxes.

1. Bogus Business Opportunities

One of the easiest ways to get someone’s attention online is to promise an easy way to make money. This is why bogus email scams work so well. You’ve most likely seen these scams before with subject lines that promise you can “Be your own boss,” or “Work from Home,” or even something outlandish like, “Make $7,879 a week by working only one hour a day…”

The email will typically give you no details about the actual opportunity. Instead, to get information, you will have to purchase some sort of “information kit.” These opportunities are typically nothing more than pyramid schemes and your “job” is to recruit more people into the scam.

2. Offers of Discount Software

How many times have you gotten an email offering you a cheap version of a premium piece of software like Windows XP or Photoshop? The offer tends to be too good to believe (Wow, the whole Adobe suite for only $29.95?) and for good reason: it’s not real.

Once they get your money, scammers either give you nothing in return (that’s the best case scenario) or they require you download a pirated version of the software with a Trojan program attached. This program can then exploit your computer and the personal information on it.

3. Nigerian Email Scams

How would you like to help me collect a very large sum of cash? I will be so grateful if you help me, that I will split that large sum of cash with you. All you have to do is give me your bank account information so that large sum of cash can be deposited into your account.

Although these scams can originate in any part of the world, for some reason many perpetrators have been Nigerian citizens.

You can spot these email scams from a mile away because the sender’s name is often African and the subject lines call for an urgent response usually in ALL CAPS.

4. Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are made to look as if they’re coming from a legitimate business or organization. Their whole purpose is to get you to share private information or download a malicious virus that will compromise your computer.

Phishing emails often look like they’re coming from one of the following:

  • A bank (there’s a problem with your account please validate by clicking on this link.)
  • A credit card company (with a special offer just for YOU.)
  • An online service provider, such as AOL (your payment did not go through this month.)
  • Or fake communications from IT Departments (asking for your password, which they’ll use to penetrate your company’s networks and computers.)

5. Virus generated emails

You know something is up when an old college acquaintance, that you haven’t heard from in 15 years, suddenly sends you an email containing only a link to buy cheap Viagra.

Just because an email comes from a familiar sender does not make it safe. Many computer viruses are spread by first searching email addresses on an infected computer. If your old college friend’s computer has been infected by a virus, the email may have very well come from his computer but was not actually written by him.

How to Avoid Becoming an Email Scam Victim

Here are simple ways you can keep your computer and bank account safe from email scams:

Filter Spam

Most email applications allow you to customise configurations so you can ensure these scams go right to the spam folder. Be aware, however, that some scammers are catching on to the latest spam filtering tools and software and getting around them with little tricks. So even when using spam filters, you’ve still gotta pay attention.

Be Suspicious

It’s sad to say, but in this day and age, you simply can’t trust any email that lands in your inbox. If something seems “off” or suspicious, even though it seems like it’s from a friend or your bank, go with your gut instinct and get in touch with said friend and bank to inquire. Never ever click on links within or download anything from a suspicious email.

Bottom line: Use common sense.

Install Antivirus Software and Keep it Up to Date

If you currently do not have an antivirus program on your computer, install one, preferably one with email scanning and automatic updating features. This will ensure you always have protection.

Email scams are bad. Not as bad as eating a soggy tuna fish sandwich while listening to a Kanye West interview with a sore eardrum, but still, no one likes them.

Luckily, if you use your head and follow these tips, you can avoid becoming a victim.

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