4+ Tips to Expose E-Mail Scams – Internet Scams Part I

This is part one of a two-part series dedicated to protecting your information and/or money from deceitful individuals, online fraud and email scams.

Email fraud, Email scams

One November 1, 2009 a server upgrade will take place and your server be offline for about an hour. The changes will concern security, reliability and performance of the system as a whole. This procedure is quite simple. All you have to do is just to click the link provided, to save the patch file and then to run it from your computer location. That’s all.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and sorry for possible inconveniences.
– WestHost System Administrator

Does this sound familiar? This was taken from an actual message sent to our sales team (with the original link omitted) containing fraudulent information. I get messages daily requiring skeptical thought and often a thorough examination.
Recently I received an e-mail message encouraging me to boycott the new dollar coin claiming the government is “phasing God out of America” by removing ‘In God We Trust’ from the coin. I thought this seemed a little odd, so I looked at my favorite urban legend super-site, snopes.com. They provided additional pictures showing the classic motto engraved around the entire outer edge of the coin. Myth debunked!
If you’ve had your e-mail address for a few months you can likely relate to what I’ve written above. I’ll show you 4 ways to reduce your risk of being defrauded or tricked into providing personal information.

Four Ways to Avoid Being Caught by an E-mail Scam
Follow these four basic rules, and most of the risk of any e-mail message can be removed.

  1. Never click directly on a link in an e-mail message. Frequently, links will appear as www.yourbank.com, but in reality clicking the link will take you somewhere like scamsunlimited.somewheredark.ru/yourbank.com. You can eliminate this risk by typing, or pasting, the link into a search engine rather than directly clicking it. The search engine results page will display a little information about the page before you actually visit it.
  2. Never trust a message from somebody you are not familiar with. If you know you don’t have an account or profile with the entity that sent you the unsolicited email, don’t visit any link asking you to update your information, account, profile, etc.
  3. Judge the clarity of the message’s language. Almost every message attempting to steal information contains terrible spelling, bad grammar and is hard to follow. Remember that most large organizations have teams dedicated to create proficient messages and are highly unlikely to send a poorly written message.
  4. If you are suspicious of a message but don’t want to disregard something that might be important, call the company via telephone to determine if the message is real before taking any action; like giving out personal details. If suspicious, look up the telephone number – don’t assume the number in the suspect message is accurate!

E-Mail Hoax Resources
In addition to the basic security steps outlined above, the following sites are dedicated to debunking online scams and e-mail spoofs. It is best to visit and confirm the rumor with more that one source. Although the sources listed below are generally credible, there may be some bias in the answers given or not given.

  • Snopes.com
  • One of the best-known resources for validating and debunking urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, etc. Use the search feature to find your specific issue. Founded by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson.

  • About.com: Urban Legends
  • Take the quiz to see how skilled you have become, receive tips and tricks and browse by topic. Maintained by David Emery.

  • TruthorFiction.com
  • Similar to other sources listed above, they provide information on eRumors, warnings, offers etc. Founded by Rich Buhler.

  • FactCheck.org
  • Go-to site for political issues. They monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.

  • Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3)
  • IC3 is a partnership of federal entities, FBI included, created to provide a resource for reporting Internet related crime and furthering research.

Let’s discuss, what do you do to sniff scams?