How to Spot an Online Scam Email

Due to the pandemic, many people are working remotely, which has enabled scammers to exploit this fact and launch a wave of online scams. It is essential that consumers are aware of these dangers and can spot a scam email, otherwise they may end up giving out personal information, which in turn makes the victim vulnerable to further attacks. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common scams and ways to spot them. Most importantly, we will discuss how to respond appropriately to a scam email so that you don’t end up being a victim yourself. Let’s get started.

Fake Profits From Amazon

One of the more common scams that we’re seeing recently involves fake profits from Amazon. Typically, these emails will claim that you have won a huge prize from one of Amazon’s competitions or sweepstakes. They will then ask you to click a link in the email to verify your entry. Once you verify it, you will be asked to spend a certain amount of money to obtain your winning ticket. If you do this, you may discover that Amazon actually has no record of you entering the competition 

In one such example, a reader of ours lost £300 in total after falling for a scam involving fake profits from Amazon. He entered a competition to win a tablet, and after clicking a link in the email, was asked to make a donation to receive his prize. When the victim questioned this, the scammers said that his tablet was not yet ready and that he would have to pay more money if he wanted it. The scammers kept the money that the victim had given them, and he ended up empty-handed. This is a classic case of online fraud, and it’s a common scam that we predict will become more popular as the economy tries to recover. We recommend that you avoid spending any money on unproven products or services that you don’t need.

Fake Hotel Deals

Hotel room scams are one of the more popular scams that criminals use to exploit consumers, especially during the pandemic. Hotels are in need of guests and are looking to fill their rooms, so it’s no secret that they’ll go to great lengths to hoover up as many bookings as possible. This means that scammers can enter your email address in order to get you to book a fake hotel room that you will never check into. It’s a good idea to be extremely careful about where you enter your personal information, as this can be very easily used by scammers.

In one example that we saw recently, a guest entered their hotel room number and then clicked on the link in the email, revealing that it was a scam and that they had just booked a fake hotel room. The scammers then asked the hotel guest to email them the receipt from the hotel website in case they needed to prove that the room was actually registered in their name. The hotel guest fell for this trick, and in the end, they spent over £900 on a fake hotel stay that they never actually checked into. We recommend that you ignore all emails like this, as it’s almost certainly a scam.

Viruses, Worms and Trojan Horses

Along with fraudulent emails, many people are also being targeted by viruses and malware through their email. The best way to protect yourself from this is by only clicking on links and installing software that you’ve downloaded from trusted sources. This is especially important if you’re the type of person who frequently visits social media websites, as many viruses are spread through these platforms.

One of the more common examples of malware that we’re seeing recently involves the COVID-19 virus, but it’s not the only one. We’ve also seen variants of Venom, Dridex, Citadel, Panda, Gigantic and many more. These viruses are usually designed to steal your personal information, so if you receive an email from someone you don’t know, it’s a good idea to be extra vigilant about your computer’s safety. Make sure that you have up-to-date antivirus software, and if you do encounter problems, don’t hesitate to call a professional to help out.

419 Fraud

This is a type of fraud that can be particularly damaging to victims, as it usually involves countries outside of the U.S. Victims of 419 fraud will often receive an email from someone claiming to be from the World Bank, requesting that they transfer a large sum of money through a wire transfer to a bank account in a developing country. 

If you receive an email like this, it’s a good idea to question the legitimacy of the email and ask for more information. Often, these emails will contain spelling errors and will use improper grammatical structures, which are some of the common giveaways that it’s a scam. Even if you’ve never dealt with this type of fraud before, you can suspect it when you see it. Once you do, you’ll know how to respond appropriately. For those who are unfamiliar, 419 fraud typically involves obtaining money from a victim through false promises of assisting with international wire transfers. The truth is that there is no World Bank email domain, and any email coming from there is highly likely to be fraudulent.

Stock Market Tips

We know that a large number of people are working remotely, which enables them to take advantage of stock market opportunities that may arise remotely. This has led to an increase in stock market scam emails, as well as increased opportunity for fraudsters.

In the past, people would receive scam emails advising them to invest in a stock or share mystery winning, or offering to change their investment portfolios for a fee. These kinds of emails are still around, but in addition to traditional investment offers, we’re also seeing more and more emails that claim to have found a way to make a large amount of money quickly. 

In one example that we saw recently, a guest entered their email address and then, without thinking, clicked on a link in the email, which took them to a fake investment website that looks like it belongs to Amazon. This is a classic ‘bait and switch’ fraud, and it’s happening more and more frequently as people are now more susceptible to misleading online advertisements.

Phishing

This is another type of scam that involves tricking people into revealing personal information, which can be very easily misused. In a nutshell, a phishing email is a type of email that attempts to look like it’s from a trustworthy source, but in reality is designed to trick you into revealing personal information. Sometimes, this information is used to gain access to your account, or to charge you for goods and services that you didn’t ask for.

In one example that we saw recently, a guest noticed that their bank wasn’t operating during the pandemic, so they logged on to their account to make a withdrawal. While doing this, they received a phishing email, which purported to be from their bank and which supposedly included their private information. Naturally, the guest panicked and disclosed their personal details, which the scammer then used to steal their money. We recommend that you be vigilant about phishing scams and remember not to give out any personal information, no matter how seemingly harmless the email may appear to be.

Virus Software And Spam

Virus software and spam are often confused with one another, but they’re two very different things. Virus software is designed to detect and eliminate viruses from your PC, whereas spam is unsolicited email that you might get delivered to your inbox. In one example that we saw recently, a guest installed virus software on their PC, inadvertently downloaded a fake antivirus app, and then proceeded to download and install a variety of suspicious-looking apps that they saw targeted at American consumers. The apps were all designed to look the same as legitimate apps, but they were all actually scam apps that were designed to steal your personal information. This is why we always recommend that you thoroughly research the source of any app or software that you’re planning to download.

In one case that we saw recently, an individual opened up their free Google Sheets to be used as a spam database, which enabled the person to create and send out thousands of emails, all using that single database. We’re seeing more and more of these types of mass email scams, because they’re so much easier to create and send out than traditional phishing emails, and they don’t require much effort to set up. In the eyes of a scammer, it’s a goldmine.

The Bottom Line

In these uncertain times, we’re all susceptible to fraud and trickery. Just remember that no matter what the form may take, online or otherwise, there’s a chance that it’s a scam. Be smart, be safe, and above all, don’t give out any unnecessary information.