Protect Yourself From These Common Scam Emails

Story by Nina Derwin 6/5/2023

Protect Yourself From These Common Scam Emails

Each day, billions– yes, billions– of deceptive or fraudulent emails are sent out by scammers all around the world. Even more alarming is how easy it is to take the bait and provide the scammer with their personal information. While your spam filter may catch some of these scam emails, no spam filter is foolproof.

The best way to protect yourself against email scams is to learn how to detect the sketchy messages. If you receive any message asking you to input your personal information, take a moment to reach out– preferably by phone –to the company or agency that emailed you to confirm that it’s a legitimate request. It is equally important to avoid clicking links in any emails from senders you don’t recognize. When you click a link in an email, be sure to verify the URL to ensure it is linking you to a legitimate site as opposed to a fraudulent, fake one.

Keep reading to learn about some of the most common email scams so you don’t fall victim and unknowingly hand over your most sensitive information.

  1. Government Agency Scam: One common type of scam email comes in the form of something resembling a message from a government agency, like the IRS or the FBI. Often the message will instruct you to enter personal information to resolve an issue– but the issue doesn’t actually exist.
  2. Routine Security Checkup Scam: A scam email that may be harder to spot is one that claims to be sent from a company or business asking you to verify your personal information for security purposes. If you’re a customer of the company, these emails can be incredibly deceptive.
  3. Expiring Account Scam: Similar to a security checkup scam email, an expiring account scam email requests that you sign in to your account with a particular website, retailer, or business to prevent your account from being deleted. A link contained in the email directs you to a phony login page which collects your personal information.
  4. Tax Refund Scam: It’s easy to lure unassuming people in with an email disguised as communication from the IRS, especially if it states that you are entitled to collect a tax refund. These scam emails often ask you to fill out a fraudulent tax form to submit a claim, giving the scammers easy access to your identifying information.
  5. Fake Friend Scam: One way scammers may try to trick you into handing over money is by emailing you posing as a friend of yours in need of help in a foreign country. Chances are your friend’s email address book was hacked, so give your friend a call to verify that it’s really them before you send over any money.
  6. Unhappy Customer Scam: If you’re a business owner or happen to sell items online through sites like eBay or Craigslist, don’t fall victim to this common scam in which someone posing as your customer is unhappy with the product or service they received. The email will likely threaten legal action if you don’t reply and send them a refund.
  7. Lucky Winner Scam: If you receive an email stating that you’ve won a contest– especially one you don’t recall entering– beware. These scam emails will direct you to click a link and enter your personal information in order to receive your prize, but it’s all just a way to collect your info for nefarious purposes
  8. Billing Issues Scam: These are harder to spot than other types of scam emails because they often look very legitimate. Scammers will email you stating that your online purchase cannot be shipped because of an issue with your billing information. If you click the link in the email, you will be asked for your updated payment information, which is really just a way for the scammers to steal your personal details.
  9. Human Resources Scam: A popular email scam involves a message that appears to be from your company’s HR department. Once you open the email and click the enclosed link, harmful malware is installed on your computer that sends your personal information back to the scammer.
  10. PayPal Scam: Nearly everyone who shops online has a PayPal account, so chances are high that if a scammer sends you an email that appears to be from PayPal, you’ll open it. These emails often look convincing, and if you click the link in the message, you’ll be prompted to enter personal information, compromising your identity.

Where to Report:

Federal Trade Commission

FBI-Internet Crime Complaint Center

For more options and information, check the resources page.

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