Protecting Yourself from Email Scams
Scams are divided into sections depending on the intentions of the thief and what they want to steal.
This is a three-part series covering most of the general ways scammers will try to scam you.
But first, what are they trying to steal?
The most obvious is money, and the second less obvious is information.
Here they have three ways of getting your hard-earned dollars out of your wallet or downloading your valuable information.
You may then ask, “What will the thief do with my information?” The answer is simple. They sell it for money. This information may be your name, address, date of birth, or email address. In the case of your email address, the purchaser may start sending you innumerable amounts of advertising material.
In the case of your personal information, they may use it to create driver's licenses, allow them to open a bank account in your name or give them voting rights. You may then ask, “What will they do with a bank account in my name?” These bank accounts are usually only opened for a short period of time. (Perhaps three weeks or less.)
In part three I will explain how easy it is for them to get your hard-earned dollars into the bank account just mentioned.
Part one: Email Scams
Let’s look at email scams in more detail.
In most cases, email scams are designed to gather your personal information. They may also be used to sell you products that never arrive or invoice you for things you never purchased. So, how do they do this? In truth, you give them your information by allowing them to place a small piece of code onto your device, into your modem, or onto your desktop.
Let me show you how to protect yourself from allowing this action to take place.
Firstly, never open an email and click on any links while crossing the road, being in a hurry, talking to a friend, or driving your car. In short, be fully focused on what you are doing when browsing through your emails.
The Header Section of the email:
Let’s say you get an email from a company that you have used many times over. The URL of the company may be something like jostle.com. You have received many emails from email@example.com and trust him implicitly. You have bought shoes from Jostle and intend to again in the future.
On this fateful day, as you are drinking your coffee and thinking about your day off tomorrow, you received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul asks you to click on the link below to see the latest shoe sale, or worse, pay an invoice. Without thinking you click on the link and “BANG”, a small piece of code is downloaded into your system, or you go ahead and pay the $36.95 requested to prevent your account from being, in Paul’s words, “Closed!”
Did you notice the obvious mistake? For those who didn’t, the “o” has been replaced by an “a” in the word jostle. Sometimes an l (L) will be replaced by an I (i) in a URL. Hmmm! Very difficult to spot in long URL’s.
It’s impossible for a company to purchase every conceivable domain name around their brand. This means that brand names can be spelt slightly differently and then purchased by the would-be thief.
Summery 1: Check the spelling of the URL from the sender.
The second thing to look for, at the top of the email, is the To: text. Is this your email address, or some random person’s email address that you do not recognize.
Summery 2: Check your email address in the header section.
Thirdly, check the Heading or Subject Line. Is the spelling correct and does the heading make sense?
Does it come from Paul, or does it come from Pawl!!
You know that "Jostle" sells shoes, and not cars, so any subject line that reads “Great Car Offer” should be a warning trigger.
Summery 3: Read the heading or subject line carefully. Confirm that it makes sense.
Scammers are clever (until they go to prison that is), however, they may stay with the theme of the website like, "New Shoes Just Arrived". If you have checked the URL and it does not match what you expect, delete the email.
Below is a screenshot showing the heading or subject line, the URL and the recipient’s email address.
It’s okay to open the email, however before clicking on any links inside the email, check these three boxes carefully.
1. Heading is recognizable
2. The sender’s email is recognizable – and the spelling is correct
3. Your email address is correct
… then you can assume it is legitimate.
If, for example, the URL is something like email@example.com - delete it immediately!
No legitimate company has numbers in their branding unless you know for sure that the company's name is something like “44 Breadbaskets” or the like.
The Body Section of the email:
In the body, you may find three kinds of links.
One link may be an image or vector graphic.
The next type of link in the body is the inline text link. We have all seen these.
A third link is an attachment just below the header. This one we all know as well.
If you have checked everything else and are satisfied you know who the document or attachment comes from, or are expecting the document, or perhaps have requested it yourself, then go ahead and open it. If not – be careful.
The Footer Section of the email.
Here is where most people get caught out.
Let’s say you have checked the URL and found it to be from firstname.lastname@example.org Hmmm! Wow, that’s not suspicious at all!!!
Anyhow, you deem it to be a scam (which it most likely is) and you think, “Oh, hell no!”, so you immediately head to the bottom of the page and hit the light grey button called … UNSUBSCRIBE.
But where does Unsubscribe go to??? Does it actually unsubscribe you? Or by hitting that unsubscribe button did you just download that little piece of code I spoke about earlier?
In a microsecond of touching that unsubscribe button, you have unwillingly given the scammers all the information on your device.
I never unsubscribe from an email list I do not know who the sender is, or from whom I initially requested to be signed up to. You must only unsubscribe from an email list of a reputable company.
So, what about the rest of those annoying emails that come from scammers? Make this your super important number one rule. Never unsubscribe from a suspicious email list. You simply DELETE the email.
Now you’re going to say, “Yes, Dean, so you expect me to continue to receive these junk emails forever?” Well, my answer to you is that you have two choices. Either delete, delete, delete, or be potentially scammed.
Remember one thing. The scammers must pay the email companies to hold your email address. Over time they can see you are not responding to their emails, and they will delete you from their list from their end. As annoying as it is, they will disappear over time.
As I said, it’s safer to unsubscribe from legitimate companies you know than from those you don’t.
In Part Two next week, I will discuss Phone Scams, and how scammers are using AI to get your hard-earned dollars.
Author: Dean Lloyd