Scammers are getting more and more sophisticated with their schemes these days. You could become a victim if you’re not careful. To be able to resist trickery, familiarize yourself with the new types of scam emails that are going around:
Dangerous emails out to scam you or collect your info:
Stranded traveller scam
What it will say: This email usually circulates in summer. It will come from a “friend” saying that while on vacation abroad, they were robbed and is now stranded without any money. They will ask for a certain amount which you would have to send via PayPal or Money Order to fund their return trip.
How to counter it: Before sending any money, contact your friend (by phone or other means, not email) to check if they are alright. It is most likely that your friend is fine but their email was hacked and is now being used by a scammer. Advise them to terminate their email account and create a new one. They should also warn their contacts so they don’t respond to the scammer.
Too good to be true travel deals
What it will say: This message offers discounted vacation packages, travel deals and even free airplane tickets. You may get hooked by the extremely cheap rates.
How to counter it: Before you book, check if the travel agency or airline exists. Also, search for online reviews of the company offering the deal or check with the Better Business Bureau to see if it is legitimate. Don’t provide personal information, especially credit card numbers, when asked on the email or link.
Urgent message from a bank or government agency
What it will say: It may say that the agency has suffered a security breach and is trying to rebuild their files or that your account has been locked for security reasons. To re-open your account, you would need to confirm your data. It will instruct you to click a link that will lead you to a page where you can type your bank account information or SIN.
How to counter it: Don’t click that link! Know that banks and government agencies will never ask you for personal or account information via email because first, it is not secure and second, they should already have these details. Legitimate emails from these sources will ask you to go to their respective websites and use your account (secured with your a user name and password) to access their message.
Missed delivery or “Confirm your purchases” scam
What it will say: It is a notice that looks like it’s from UPS or FedEx saying that your package could not be delivered. It could also be a message from an online store like Amazon or eBay saying that your goods are on the way. The email will instruct you to input your password or personal information (e.g. name, address, emails, etc.) to be able to “track” the package.
How to counter it: If you haven’t sent any packages or bought anything online lately, then you know that it’s a scam. But if you just did, be careful and don’t click any link in the email. Look for these signs: The sender’s email address is not connected with the company sending the message, and you are not instructed to go to the company’s official webpage. Before following the instructions on the email, call the customer service of the company (use their official phone numbers) to confirm if the message is real.
Cellular carrier clone site
What it will say: This email is a bit more sophisticated. Your mobile phone service provider will offer discounts and promotions and then via a link, lead you to a website that looks exactly like your mobile carrier’s website. You will be asked to provide your password and the last four digits of your SIN to join or claim the discount or prizes. They can then hack your account using the information you provided.
How to counter it: What should trigger your suspicion is the fact that they asked for your SIN. Never give out your SIN unless it is required by law (read How to protect your SIN). Another red flag may be the website’s URL. At the topmost portion of the screen, check if it has the secure symbol (a padlock) and it starts with “https.” If you want to be more sure if the website is authentic, search for your carrier’s official website on a search engine to confirm.
The Nigerian Prince is back
What it will say: The Nigerian Prince scam asks you to invest in a get-rich-quick scheme or to help them facilitate the transfer of millions of dollars from a deposed dictator. They will say that they can deposit money directly to your account. This scheme now has different variations, ranging from wealthy orphans needing an adult sponsor to people posing as Syrian government officials instead of a Nigerian Prince. The general idea is to dupe you into giving them your bank account information or sending them money for the promise of bigger earnings.
How to counter it: As a policy, don’t send money to people you don’t know. Never share your bank account information or any sensitive information by email. When a transaction sounds good to be true, it usually is.
Hit man scam
What it will say: This alarming email will inform you that someone is out to kill you. To avoid being assassinated, you will be asked to buy a security alarm for your protection or send money in exchange for protection.
How to counter it: This email should have gone straight to spam. If you receive this email, don’t take it seriously and delete it.
Loan/Mortage Modification scam
What it will say: You will be offered lower interest and payments compared to your current lender. They will require you to give them up-front fees. Upon paying the amount, the loan/mortgage officer will disappear.
Beautiful lonely girl scam
What it will say: This a version of “catfishing” where a beautiful lady (or guy) from abroad you met online will establish a romantic relationship with you via email. At some point, they will ask for your financial help for an emergency or illness. They may also ask for money for visa processing and airplane tickets so you can meet. After you send money, they disappear without a trace.
How to counter it: Don’t be too trusting. Love should not come with a price. Never send money to someone you have never met.
Blackmail email scam (sextortion scam)
What it will say: This will inform you that a hacker accessed your computer and filmed you while you were watching pornography. It will ask you to pay up or they will send the compromising video to your contacts and embed a virus in your computer.
How to counter it: Transact only with legitimate financial institutions. Again, if the arrangement sounds too good to be true, it must be.
What it will say: Just like the Hit Man scam, this type of email is spam. It is sent out to thousands of people to extort money out of them. Delete the email and practice safe browsing habits.
How to protect yourself from dangerous emails:
- Check the sender. Don’t open emails if you don’t know the sender. Be suspicious of emails that don’t address you by name.
- Weed out emails you don’t need. Always have your spam filter on.
- Stay on safe sites. Browse only secure sites. If you are using Google Chrome, it usually sends a warning when a site is unsafe. Unsafe sites have deceptive content and may install malware on your computer. Malware can destroy your files or copy sensitive information like passwords.
- Think before you click! Be careful about links in an email even if the email comes from a trusted source.
- Protect your data. Never give out your personal information, passwords or account numbers freely.
- Don’t send money to people you don’t know.
- Be protected. Install a good anti-virus software and make sure that it is updated. This can protect you from hackers and your files from malware.
- Review your credit card statement regularly. Check all your transactions carefully and inform your bank right away if you see unusual charges.
- Change your passwords often. Make strong passwords and use a different one for each account. If you have a hard time keeping track of your passwords, use a password manager.
- Report a scam if you see or experience one. This will help stop the proliferation of scams and prevent others from becoming victims.
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