How to Spot Phishing Scams and Other Email Fraud

By Nancy C. Muir

As in the offline world, the Internet has a criminal element. These cybercriminals use Internet tools to commit the same crimes they’ve always committed, from robbing you to misusing your good name and financial information. Know how to spot the types of scams that occur online and you’ll go a long way toward steering clear of Internet crime.

Before you click a link that comes in a forwarded email message or forward a message to others, ask yourself:

  • Is the information legitimate? Sites such as TruthorFiction.com, Snopes, or Urban Legends Online can help you discover if an email is a scam.

    Snopes

  • Does a message ask you to click links in email or instant messages? If you’re unsure whether a message is genuinely from a company or bank that you use, call them, using the number from a past statement or the phone book.

    Don’t call a phone number listed in the email; it could be a fake. To visit a company’s or bank’s website, type the address in yourself if you know it or use your own bookmark rather than clicking a link. If the website is new to you, search for the company online and use that link to visit its site. Don’t click the link in an email, or you may land on a site that looks right — but is in reality a good fake.

  • Does the email have a photo or video to download? If so, exercise caution. If you know the person and he told you he would be sending the photo or video, it’s probably fine to download, but if the photo or video has been forwarded several times and you don’t know the person who sent it originally, be careful. It may deliver a virus or other type of malware to your laptop.

In addition to asking yourself these questions, also remember the following:

  • If you decide to forward (or send) email to a group, always put their email addresses on the Bcc: (or Blind Carbon Copy) line. This keeps everyone’s email safe from fraud and scams.
  • Think before you click. Doing so will save you and others from scams, fraud, hoaxes, and malware.