These days, everyone uses email, even elderly individuals. This rise in the widespread use of technology has led to a problem that can strike just about anyone. That problem is email scams. A recent example of one such scam involved a popular online payment provider, PayPal. An innocent looking email informed users that they recently changed their passwords and that they needed to call a specific phone number if they hadn’t actually changed their password.
Sadly, many people fell right into the trap and called the phone number. The email address originated from “firstname.lastname@example.org” and a link to PayPal was included within the messages. However, once a person called the included phone number, they were asked for their credit card information to verify their PayPal accounts. At that point, the individual should have felt suspicious.
In general, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or what email service you use. No matter what the specifics are pertaining to you, if you use email, you have probably received some sort of scam or phishing email. It’s important to know how to spot one of these scams and know how to protect yourself from them.
Usually, it’s fairly easy to tell when an email is a scam. Around 10 years ago, those involving an “African prince” or some supposedly wealthy individual wanting you to send money so he could come to the United States and give you a larger chunk of money is one of the more obvious ones. With that scam, you are told that all you have to do is send them your bank account information and social security number.
However, since then, criminals have become even savvier. Many of today’s scam emails are a lot more sophisticated and authentic looking to trick you into giving away your personal and financial information. Gary Davis, who works for Intel Security as a chief consumer security evangelist, states that in a recent study, over 19,000 people were asked to take a look at 10 emails and determine which were scams. Scarily, only three percent of those individuals were able to identify which ones were scams.
Even worse, there are some scam and phishing emails that include ransomware. Ransomware has recently been running quite rampant. It’s extremely dangerous and literally locks down your computer until you pay the criminal to gain back control over it. There is a lot to fear with these types of emails. However, all hope is not lost and you can protect yourself and your finances by knowing how to avoid such scams.
Read Subject Lines and the Sender’s Address
Scam emails usually have suspicious subject lines, such as banking and package deliveries. Frequently, the sender’s address is also odd. For instance, the individual may claim they are an employee of some well-known financial institution, but if their email directs from Gmail, it should raise a red flag. Simply delete such messages or report them as spam.
Hover Over Links
In some cases, you can simply place your mouse cursor over a link you believe may be suspicious. Most email programs allow you to view the entire web address of a link when you hover over it. If you do this and see a web address that differs from where it says it does, avoid clicking it.
Be Suspicious of “Urgent” Messages
Most emails that claim to be urgent and related to your banking information or about other financial matters are typically scams. Anything with “Final Warning” or “Urgent Notification” labeling it should alert you that they are fraudulent. It’s believed that Russian agents used this very method to gain access to the Democratic National Committee’s server.
Incorrect Spelling or Grammar
Another surefire way to spot scam emails is if they are chock full of incorrect spelling or grammatical errors. Emails from legitimate companies are traditionally error-free, but criminals may not be so savvy. If you see one like that, delete it immediately or mark it as spam.
Overall, you should always take your time when going through emails. When you’re patient, you’re thorough, which means you’ll be more likely to spot messages that are fraudulent. BMG Money wants to ensure that you always make wise decisions when it comes to your finances. Always use your wits. You should also always have good antivirus, anti-spyware and other malware detecting software installed. Use a firewall on your computer as well. Use only official apps for your email and avoid third-party apps. Change your password on occasion and make it something nobody could ever guess, complete with a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. These steps should effectively keep your personal and financial information safe.
BMG Money is an emergency loan company, providing responsible lending for hardworking Americans who come across unexpected problems.