How to Investigate Email Fraud

Are You Being Scammed?

In an age of massive online data breaches and internet scams, protecting yourself from email fraud is important. Here’s what you should know.

According to a study from Javelin Strategy & Research, there were 16.7 million cases of identity fraud in 2017 alone. In that same year, the FTC received 2.68 million fraud complaints from consumers totaling a staggering $905 million in losses. We live in an age of massive online data breaches and internet scams – protecting yourself from email fraud is more important than ever. Here’s what you need to know.

Phishing Scams and You

“Phishing” scams are by far one of the most common (and costly) forms of cyber crime. A scammer will attempt to “phish” for sensitive information (social security number, credit card information, passwords) via fraudulent emails.

Nigerian scam emails (or “419 scams”) are perhaps the most infamous form of phishing fraud, and they show no signs of going away. While most phishing emails will be snagged by your spam filter, the sneakier ones can slip right through.

Types of Phishing Scams

Phishing emails come in many forms but their end-goal is always the same: get your info and get your money.

Some emails claim to be from well-known financial institutions such as banks or the IRS and ask you to respond with your account info. They may even redirect you to a “spoofed” (fake) website that appears to be legitimate in hopes that you’ll fill out a form using your sensitive information.

Others claim you’ve won a prize and can claim it by clicking a link. The link may contain viruses which then hack into your computer.

Whatever the form, never click suspicious links or respond to emails from strange domains. Look for poor grammar or English spelling, as many scammers reside overseas. From there you can do a little detective work of your own to see if the sender is legit.

How to Investigate Possible Email Fraud

An easy way to investigate a potentially fraudulent email is to copy and paste its contents into Google. This will let you see if anybody else has reported it.

Another method is to run a reverse email lookup using a people search engine, which can tell you more about the sender including name, social media pics/profiles and more. Start your search by entering the email address into the search bar. Wait a few seconds to view matches that may help uncover the information you’re seeking.

If the sender claims to be a popular company (Amazon, PayPal, Facebook), look closely at the sender’s address. Check to see if it’s different from the company’s website (i.e. an email claiming to be from Amazon that’s sent from “amazzon.com”).

You should also mark anything suspicious you receive as “spam” so your email’s filters are as up-to-date as possible. If you continue to be spammed by scammers, be sure and do some additional research on ways to protect your computer – and – your wallet – from future attacks.

Spokeo is not a consumer reporting agency as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Do not use this site to make decisions about employment, tenant screening, or any purpose covered by the FCRA.