Your email inbox can be a hazardous place. Most of us deal with the annoyance of spam emails trying to coax us into buying everything from viagra to stocks, but among those annoying yet relatively harmless emails there may be a message or two from a sender with much more diabolical intentions. You may have heard of the IRS email scam or the UK Lottery scam. These fraudsters attempt to obtain your personal and financial information for a number of purposes including credit fraud and even identity theft.
There are many types of email scams. Here are four common ploys.
IRS refund scam
This is an email that appears to come from the IRS which states that you are due a refund and gives a link to a site where you fill out a refund form. Of course, the site and the form are fake, serving only to deliver your info to the scammer.
This scam plays on everyone's dream of winning big in the lottery. The email will claim that you have won a huge cash prize and your private data is needed to process your claim to your winnings. . . but do you remember ever buying a ticket?
This email claims to be from a lawyer of a deceased person, or a soon-to-be-deceased person themselves, stating that you are the chosen heir to a vast fortune. Of course, they will need your banking details to make the deposit, probably a small transfer fee also!
This email seems to be a legitimate offer of employment processing international payments. A check is paid to your bank account and you deduct a commission and send on 90%. The check either turns out to be fake, or you get arrested for money laundering.
How to protect yourself:
Never divulge personal information in an email. Officials from banks, the government and similar institutions will never ask you for private details in an email. If someone does, be suspicious.
Never download or open attachments on suspicious emails. They may contain viruses or trojans that could allow a hacker to access your computer.
Check the return email address. Banks don't use hotmail!! If the return address is a free webmail address, be suspicious.
If you are unsure about an email you receive, there are several sites like http://email-scams.info that have lists of scam emails currently in circulation. Check and see if the email you got is on one of those lists.
Always remember the old chestnut. . . if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Steve Greene blogs about email scams at http://email-scams.info