One of the easiest ways to avoid falling prey to an email scam is to be suspicious. If something seems a little off about an email, check out the details. The most comon tip-offs to a scam are :
1. The senders email address (the From field). Email addresses have 2 parts – the Display Name, and the Email Address itself. If the two don’t appear related, toss it. The senders address will be shown in an email as something like <Display Name ‘Email Address’>. Some email programs will only show the display name, but if you move your mouse cursor over top of the display name, the email address will be shown in a pop-up window nearby. For example, if the display name is john doe, and the email address is email@example.com, it may be an email address that has been hijacked from the rightful owner for use with spam and scams. Another scam tip-off from the senders address is use of free email accounts claiming to be from a large organization such as a bank or corporation. Bank managers and employees will never use a free email address such as a Yahoo/Gmail/Hotmail/etc account for official business.
2. The receivers email address (the To field). Emails addressed to ‘undisclosed recipients’ should be examined more closely if they are not from an club or organization which regularly sends messages to its members and to which you have subscribed. If the message is not from an expected source, take a closer look. If an email claims detailed knowledge of you (ie. we have heard that you are a trustworthy business person), but is not addressed to you personally, it is more likely to be a scam.
3. Account problem message. Most banks will not use email to notify you of a problem with your account, they will send you a letter on company letterhead, addressed to you by name, and mentioning your account number. If an email claims to be from a bank or a company with whom you don’t have an account, just trash it. If the message is from a bank or company with whom you do have an account, a legitimate message will be addressed to you specifically and mention your account number. Remember that your bank or utility company does have your name, and will use it if they send you a message. If in doubt about the email, look at the senders address. If the senders address doesn’t seem like it comes from the tech support department, it is probably a scam. Many scams are sent out from email addresses that have been hacked or stolen for use by scammers. The way to recognise this is relatively stright forward. If there is a link in the email for you to login to your account and ‘correct the problem’, it is wise to avoid clicking on that link. As a general policy, if I receive such a message, I open my web browser and login to my account the usual way (not using the link in the email) and check if there is an actual problem.
4. Email from the heir to a huge fortune – messages from an unknown relative with a huge amount of money that just needs your banking details so you can help get the money out of a foreign country and get a hefty percentage for your help. Whatever you do, do not give someone details of your real bank account in an email. Many of these messages are from Nigeria, and I have never heard of one being legitimate, and a huge number of scams run by very convincing scammers. I heard recently of a group of 800 Nigerian scammers being arrested, with 8 billion dollars of ill-gotten gains being reclaimed from them. Another approach for handling this kind of message is to open an account with a new bank, and only keep a very small amount of money in it, and give details of this account rather than the one which has your savings.I have occasionally clicked on the link in a scam email and given a false name and password to annoy the scammer.