We might all have had a chuckle when that glaringly obvious email scam drops into your inbox.
Yet chances are we’ve heard at least one story of someone who was fooled into handing over a bucketload of cash to an anonymous stranger. And now that these scams are becoming a little more subtle, we all have to be on our guard.
Here are some of the most ‘popular’ cons and the ways you can avoid falling into their terrible trap.
You’ve won a pile of money! (No, you haven’t)
Any email that has ‘congratulations’ in its subject header should set alarm bells ringing straight away. How could I have won the lottery if I haven’t entered it? Well, exactly, and why should you have to send them money before you collect those winnings?
Phishing for your chips
One reason you should never have just one password for your more sensitive log-ins is that clever online robbers are after this simple bit of data in order to hack deep into your bank account. An email which looks like it could quite easily be from a legitimate website may fool you, and the phone line you are directed to might only ever have an automated message at the other end, but well, sometimes people are really busy and can’t answer their calls? A few key phrases should properly trigger your doubts: ‘Confirm your identity’ and ‘verify your account’ are classics, and if you receive a dire warning that your account will be shut down in 48 hours if you don’t respond should be all the information you need to shut them down.
The job’s a bad ‘un
If you’re currently seeking employment and actively in the market, the best thing you could find in your inbox is a job offer. If your details are with an agency, then maybe the warning signs might not necessarily be lighting up if an employer you’ve never heard of is prepared to give you a position in their firm. But if someone you have never met seems rather keen on gaining access to your bank details, it’s worth logging off and trying to find out if that person (and company) actually exists. Chances are they won’t.
Why do people fall for it?
Before the internet, stories would be legion of people (especially the elderly) being conned out of their life savings on their very doorsteps. Technological advancement has merely given the new breed of con artists a less in-your-face avenue for stealing our money. It’s not just old people, though, anyone can be enticed into handing over large sums if they feel it will ultimately benefit them or if a plea touches on their humanity: such as the ‘Nigerian email scams’ in which families will be saved if you could just see your way to sending out your bank details.
People have done some awful things when they’ve signed-in after imbibing one too many. And those moments when our wits are not being kept about us are the times when even the most level-headed individual can fall prey. Never drink and surf.
Trust (almost) no one
It’s a rather sad indictment of the wider global society, but with our identities and funds prone to attack, a little bit of cynicism and a sprinkle of suspicion on your part will go a long way. Once you get to know the clues (if someone you don’t know is asking for data that could in any way lead them to your finances, press delete immediately) your ability to spot a scam will keep you (and your money) safe from harm.
If you’ve been the victim of a cruel email scam, how did they manage to con you?