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How to Avoid Falling Victim to Email Fraud

Posted in Communication,Computers by Joe Colburn on the September 26th, 2008

Economy of American SamoaImage via WikipediaAs I sit here and watch banks crumble under the weight of a failing economy and bad decisions, I also continue to watch countless emails pour into my mailbox telling my that my bank’s security policy has changed or some information needs to be verified. It is with this in mind that I decided to make a post warning people of the various scams floating around. I only hope that it saves at least one person from making the mistake of falling for one of these scams.

Types of scams
Some of the more popular scams include emails that:
- Notify you of lottery winnings and request sensitive information
- Notify you of inheritance and request sensitive information
- Ask for your help moving $xx,000,000 to the United States and request sensitive information
- Notify of an ebay dispute or question, prompting you to log in
- Notify you of banking security changes, prompting you to log in

The first four try to get you to email back information to them, baiting the reader with a reward of some kind. Often, they request extreme discretion, as they don’t want you telling a friend who may, in turn advise you to do some research. The end goal is to have enough information from you to aid in identity theft, whether the scammer steals your identity or they sell your information.

The last two pose a more immediate threat. Those types of emails try to get you to log into what you think is ebay or your online banking account. Instead, you’re handing your information over to a scam artist who will then log into your account, himself, and drain it. If you ever think you handed your banking information to the wrong person, don’t be shy or too embarrassed to call your bank right away. I know better, and still fell victim once. As stupid as I felt about it, I immediately called my bank, explained that I made a mistake and needed to change my information, and they changed it before I ever lost a dime.

Why talk about this now?
There’s a lot of dumb and/or greedy millionaires and billionaires running America’s banks into the ground, having taken very risky mortgages in an unstable market. That’s how I see it, anyway, but the fact is that banks in this country are dropping like flies. If there’s one thing a smart scammer does, it’s latch seize an opportunity when it comes along. I haven’t seen any yet, but I know that somewhere out there, a scammer is writing up an email about how your bank needs you to verify your information to guarantee that your money will be FDIC insured or some similar lie. In an extremely fragile economy with real threat of your bank vanishing tomorrow, people get scared and even the smartest people make dumb mistakes out of fear. So what better time is there to remind people about the scams.

General email safety rules
It’s impossible to know every scam email out there before it circulates. There’s always a first victim. Luckily, there’s some pretty easy things to remember to help make sure you’re not one of the victims:

- If you’re going to a site you have to log into or will download anything from, ALWAYS type in the url yourself rather than clicking a link in an email
- Most reputable organizations will begin their email to you with your real name. “Dear member” is almost the same as “Dear victim”
- Never run anything in an email that you don’t trust 100%
- (phone) Never give out over the phone enough information to get a credit card unless you called the company and want a card. If someone calls and wants to verify information, make them give you most of it and verify very little. At the very least, ask if you can call them back.

I hope you gained even the smallest bit of information from this and if you did, feel free to email the URL on to someone you think could benefit.

Quick Survey
Have you ever fallen victim to any of these emails or other forms of identity theft or credit card fraud?

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About the author

Joe Colburn Joe Colburn is a software engineer specializing in PHP and a technology enthusiast. Always eager to dive into new and exciting things, Joe writes about anything technology related news and products that he thinks you will also be excited about. Find Joe Colburn on Google+ or by any of the links below.

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