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5 Easy-to-Spot Email Scams

If you’ve been a citizen of the Internet for any amount of time, you’re aware that it’s full of scammers. That’s just part of life online, right?

Here’s something else to consider, though. People who haven’t spent as much time online, and we’re thinking particularly of younger teens and senior citizens, can find themselves targeted by scammers. It’s worth having a conversation with your kids and your parents about email scams and how to avoid them.

The Nigerian Scam

The Nigerian scam is the most well-known Internet scam out there and yet it still continues to snag people. Frequently seniors.

You get an email from a Nigerian prince who needs to get his money out of the country—and you’ll get a cut if you help him. He just needs a little good faith money from you first.

But you’ve heard of this scam already. You might even have a few examples of it sitting in your junk mail. So why’d we start with it? Because it makes billions every year and the people most at risk are sixty and over.

Avoid it: You know what they say about something that’s too good to be true. It’s also worth having a conversation with seniors in your life about the scam and how to be cautious online.

“You’ve Won a Trip—But the Offer Expires Tonight!”

You get an email offering an amazing deal on some exotic and warm destination. Or maybe even a cruise. But the offer expires soon, so you need to sign on the dotted line right away. It’s only after you sign and put the money down does the trick emerge. Suddenly you’re on the hook for a bunch of sky-high fees, and if you cancel, you probably won’t even get a refund.

Avoid it: Book travel from proven travel agencies and beware of amazing offers that pressure you to act quickly.

Disaster Relief Scams

In the wake of terrible events like the fires in Fort McMurry, people show us their best by donating time, money, and more. Unfortunately, others show their worst by attempting to get some of those charitable donations.

You’ll get an email that looks legitimate—they’ve copied the graphics of someone like Red Cross and spoofed an email—asking for money right away. In the less malicious version of the scam, you just lose the amount donated to someone pretending to be the Red Cross. In the worse version, they’re happy to abuse your credit card information.

Avoid it: Beware donations solicited by email. If you’ve never signed up to be on a mailing list from someone like Red Cross, they aren’t going to contact you by email. It’s best to donate directly via a charity’s website.

The Overseas Employment Scam

After posting your resume online you get an email from an overseas finance company you’ve never heard of. They say they’re expanding into Canada, so they need you to be a financial representative. You take payments from their customers, get a little commission, and send the rest to them. They just need some of your banking information . . .

This terrible scam plays out in a few ways. You could be a victim of identity theft. Or they’ll try and take money from your bank account. Or you’ll get a bunch of cheques and money orders, deposit them, send the scammers the money minus your 5% commission, and then find out from your bank that the original cheques were fake and you’re on the hook for the missing money.

Avoid it: Job seekers need to know that they’re targets for all sorts of dishonest behaviour.

“Make Money at Home—Just Download Our Software!”

This scam promises that you can make easy money from home just surfing the Internet—clicking around the Internet, running a webpage in the background, or something like that. All the scammer needs for you to do is download some software. Not only will the scammer not pay, but the toolbars or programs downloaded will ruin your computer.

Avoid it: There’s no easy way to make money online by just running a few programs in the background.

Bottom Line

There are lots of other scams out there and scammers are thinking of new ones all the time. However, a few rules can help you avoid these. Never provide personal information, open an attachment, or click a link from a sender you don’t recognise. Double-check the identity of anyone asking for your personal information. Pressure to provide personal information should alert your inner sceptic. Be safe out there!