Spotting email scams
Just think how many emails each day you respond to without question:
- The normal emails from your friends?
- Requests from your manager?
- Special offer emails from companies that you already deal with?
We regularly act on email without questioning it.
Now think what would happen if a scammer sent you an email that - by sheer luck - looked like something you might be expecting. All it takes is for one email to look 'normal' and bypass your defences, and you'll have just lost a lot of money. This is why (sadly) you need to be constantly alert to the possibility of any email being a scam.
If you notice any of the following in an email then you should look at it more closely:
1) Unusual payment requests
Being asked to pay upfront, to change bank details, or to pay via a money transfer service, can all be big warning signs.
2) Too good to be true?
If it's too good to be true, it almost certainly is (sorry, you've not won that lottery!)
3) "Don't tell anyone"
The fewer people who know, the less chance there is of someone raising the alarm.
4) Time pressure
Scammers know the quicker you act the less time you have to realise you're being scammed.
5) Playing on your emotions
Scams regularly manipulate our emotions, especially curiosity, empathy, hope, and fear.
Fraudsters will feign authority by impersonating banks, well known companies, lawyers, charities, or even the police.
Our page on how to spot phishing emails also contains lots of tips on tell-tale tale signs to watch for. The tips on that page are valid for all types of email scam, regardless of the scam's objective or who the email is sent to.
Some common scams
Humans instinctively have several traits that make us all susceptible to being scammed. We naturally want to help others, we're curious, we want to be liked, and we're often lazy. We're also programmed to want to trust each other.
Fraudsters know this - and use it against us.
Below are some of the more commonly seen email-based scams, in addition to phishing emails. Being aware of the scams below, and knowing the common warning signs above, should help to protect you against the majority of scams.