It’s kind of hard to believe, but a LOT of people are still falling victim to scam emails, also known as phishing emails. When “phishing” is spelled that way, it just means that there is a scammer looking to grab some personal information in order to steal your identity and your money.
There are often some telltale signs that an email is nothing more than a scam. Here are a few:
Misspelled words – since a lot of scams originate outside the US (commonly in Nigeria or Russia), the creator might not know English very well. So misspellings and bad grammar are often seen. Not something you normally see in an email that’s actually from your bank.
Wrong web addresses – this one can be very tricky, because the scammers have gotten very clever about it. When an email directs you to a website, it’s easy to disguise the actual address of that site. For example, you might think you are looking at “bankofamerica.com” but it’s really not the bank’s site at all. Look at this address:
At first glance, it looks like the Bank of America website. But the only name that really counts is the last one just before the last “dot com”. Everything prior to that is meant to be a distraction. So that website is actually scott.com and has nothing to do with any bank.
Requests for information – if an email, or a website that came from an email, asks you for your credit card number, checking account number, PIN, Social Security number, or any other personal identity information, it’s a scam. Your bank or Paypal would never ask for that information. But a scammer sure would!
Attachments in .ZIP format – if an email attachment comes in .zip format, your antivirus program probably won’t spot it. You shouldn’t open email attachments anyway, but again, this one tricks a lot of people.
What happens is this: you get an email from UPS or Fedex (not really from them of course) and it says something to this effect: “We tried delivering your package today but were unable to deliver it. Please see the attached report for information on how to pick up your package.” This is so clever! It works a lot of the time, because the recipient just happens to actually be expecting a package, so the email seems completely natural. They open the attachment, and suddenly their computer is infected with a virus or spyware.
To help illustrate this, I made a short video pointing out some of the “red flags” in a phishing email I received recently. For best viewing, click on the “Full Screen” icon in the lower right corner of the video.
Have you received any clever or tricky phishing emails? Tell us your experience in the comments below: