Some email scams are obvious. Others are hilarious. And then there are the subtle ones that fool even the most intelligent of us. In fact, these 2019 email scam statistics show just how bad the problem is:
- 30% of scam messages get opened by their targets.
- 76% of businesses admit that they were hurt by email phishing scams within the last year.
- Email scams have increased by 65% over the last year.
At Spokeo, we’re in the business of making the internet safer, so we’ve compiled the following telltale signs you’re being scammed by email — so you can identify con artists before you become a victim.
Signs of a Scammer
We’ll start with a red flag you probably know about.
1. Did Your Email Come From Nigeria?
Have you ever received an email from Nigeria describing an elaborate plan to transfer millions of dollars to your bank account? These emails usually come with a story about needing to access the trust account of a Nigerian prince — and for some reason, you’re the only one who can help. In reality, the scammer wants your bank-account information so they can drain your accounts.
Of all the Nigerian scams we’ve seen, this one about a Nigerian astronaut stranded in space — who desperately needs your help to come home — definitely gave us a chuckle. We particularly like the subject line, which reads: “A really worthy cause which you should be aware of.” If you get an email from a Nigerian with a fantastic storyline — or if you receive a request for help with an elaborate bank transfer from anyone — delete it.
2. Does It Sound Too Good to Be True?
If someone is offering you a free cruise ticket, a trip to Hawaii, an immediate job offer or anything that sounds too good to be true — get suspicious. The people who fall for these offers often pay money, and all they get in return is an empty wallet.
“Too good to be true” scams get trickier when they offer so little that they actually seem plausible. For example, the Better Business Bureau reported on a scam offering a $20/hour job. The job allegedly involved listing products and posting reviews on Amazon.com, but it was a scam:
“Allegedly, the online retailer is hiring dozens of people to list products online, post reviews, and do other website work. The position pays well — targets report anything from $20/hour to $6,000/month — and you can work from home. Scammers use the names Amazon Cash Website(s), StockRetail.com, and WebStoreJobs.com.”
Applicants had to pay $200 to purchase an “enrollment kit.” After paying, they didn’t get a job and the scammer disappeared with their money.
The lesson here: When someone asks you for money — even if it’s a small amount of cash in exchange for a plausible employment opportunity or some other benefit that sounds too good to be true — investigate.
3. Do They Want Your Personal Information?
It should go without saying, but if someone is asking for your personal information and you don’t know them, it’s probably a scam. Identity thieves and con artists can do a lot of damage to your bank accounts and credit rating if they convince you to give them information like any of the following:
- Bank-account details
- Social Security number
- Credit card information
- Insurance information
- Mother’s maiden name
- Other personally identifiable information
These scams can be convincing when the scam artist pretends to be your bank, an insurer, the Social Security Administration, the FBI, the government, PayPal, Amazon or another organization you deal with. For example, you could receive a fraud alert from your bank by email, phone or text message — but it’s a scammer.
Don’t trust emails, phone calls or text messages that claim to be from organizations you deal with and are asking for personally identifiable information. Before giving information in response to one of these messages, call the organization via the number you have in your own records.
4. Do You Feel Pressured to Respond Immediately to a Request?
Scam artists may pressure victims with time constraints. They’ll say that you need to act now or something will happen to stop the deal. They’ll do this to prevent you from taking time to investigate the matter.
No matter who you’re dealing with, a legitimate businessperson or government representative will never pressure you with time constraints like this. If you feel pressured — like the deal will fall through or something bad will happen if you don’t act now — you’re probably being scammed.
5. Did the Email Come From a Strange Address or Domain?
Scam artists can format emails to make them look like they came from your bank — but look again. What email address did it come from?
If you receive a legitimate email from Spokeo, for example, it will come from an address that looks like this: firstname.lastname@example.org. However, if the email is from a con artist, it could look like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or something else suspicious. A scam email address could also have subtle misspellings (like email@example.com) or a bunch of jumbled text and numbers.
When an email comes from a fraudulent address, it could include a link that takes you to a fake version of your bank’s website — or opening the email could trigger a virus to download. Delete suspicious emails like this and don’t open them. Whatever you do, don’t click on the links.
How Do You Avoid Getting Scammed?
Spokeo is an online people search tool that you can use to investigate anyone you suspect is trying to target you with a scam. Want to know if that stranded Nigerian astronaut is legit? All you need is a name, email address or phone number to search billions of online records — including criminal records — to get a better understanding of the kind of person you’re dealing with. Try Spokeo now!
Along with his fascination with emerging technologies like internet technology, blockchain, encryption and the laws and market trends that follow them, Jeremy Hillpot’s background in consumer-investor fraud litigation provides a unique perspective on a vast array of topics including website tech, investments, startups, cryptocurrencies and the law.