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Avoid Scams: Fraudulent Emails

In this article, we will be covering email scams. Unfortunately, email scams (aka email phishing) have been quite popular for awhile now and have been costing people big! In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost about $57 million to phishing schemes in 2020, and a good chunk of that took place in California. Before we continue, we’ll define phishing for you, so you are clear about what to avoid. Phishing is when scammers request financial or other confidential information via fraudulent emails, pretending to be people or corporations you know and trust. Email scammers have come up with many different angles to phish for information via email messages, but we’re here to help you spot these suspicious messages and keep them from doing any harm. Let’s get started!

First things first, when you get an email, always look at the sender’s email address to see if there is anything ‘phishy’ (see what we did there?). Scammers try to disguise email addresses to look like legitimate addresses, when, in reality, they aren’t. Here are some examples to get the drift of what we’re talking about:

Legitimate email address: info@amazon.com
Scammer email address: 7info-desk6@amaz0n.com

Legitimate email address: shipping@usps.com
Scammer email address: ship-dept43@uspsus.com

Legitimate email address: questions@zelle.com
Scammer email address: quest1on@zellemoney.com

If you come across an email address that you do not recognize or that looks questionable, a good practice is to cross reference it with the addresses listed on the corresponding websites. Do not “Reply” to the email until you are sure that it is a legitimate address.

Now, on to the body of these suspicious emails. Phishing emails often tell a story to trick you into clicking a link or opening an attachment. Some of the ways they may try to get you to act on these emails are:

  • reporting that they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts
  • claiming there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
  • including a fake invoice and requesting payment
  • saying you’re eligible to register for a government refund
  • offering a coupon for free items

If you come across an email that seems a bit… off, please be weary. Scammers often do a fairly good job disguising emails to look legitimate by using logos, adding enticing terminology, and requesting immediate action.

So, what do you do if you come across one of these phishing emails in your inbox? Great question. You send out a group of scam fighting ninjas, of course! Totally kidding. Here’s what you really do. First, as soon as you identify that the email is fraudulent, be sure not to respond, give any information, or click on any link. Then, you can report the suspicious email to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (reportphishing@apwg.org) and to the Federal Trade Commission (reportfraud.ftc.gov). Once reported, simply delete the email from your inbox and give yourself a pat on the back for being a fraud-fighting superhero!

We know these topics are not among the most fun to talk about, but they are very important when it comes to keeping your finances safe and sound. We hope you’ve learned a bit or two about email phishing in this article — and as always, our team of experts (aka fraud fighting ninjas) are here for you if you have any questions or concerns. Stay safe, friends!