Email scams are a type of fraud. While it’s true that a fraudulent offer can be contrived with almost any story, there are a few “tried and true” cons that seem to crop up repeatedly over time, such as advanced fee fraud, over payment fraud, and work from home scams, among others.
The broad strokes tend to remain the same, but the details of these types of fraud change over time. There are resources to keep on top of the ever changing scams, and steps to take to defend against them.
Email is an extremely common format for many scams for the simple fact that it’s so cheap and easy to execute. You would think that scammers would have refined their approach by now, but many scam emails are poorly written and fairly easy to spot. Nonetheless, some are more sophisticated and people still lose a lot of money to email scams every year.
This scam has many variations, and may claim that you are a beneficiary of some estate money, have won the lottery, or have an old bank account you’ve forgotten about.
Whatever the subject, the email is requesting that you send a fee in advance before you can receive whatever is promised.
This is a variation of the advanced fee scam but deserves its own spot since it has been so prevalent. Emails typically promise large rewards for helping “government officials” move money to US banks, with upfront fees required. The scam started in Nigeria and violates penal code 419 in the country.
Charity scams simply play on the emotions of victims to persuade them to hand over donations to fake charities and organizations. Subjects might include puppies in danger or disaster relief efforts. The emails typically include some excuse as to why the matter is urgent and may include links to legitimate-looking websites. Aside from sending money, victims may be handing over their credit card details to thieves.
Work from home
Working from home has so many draws and is a major lifestyle goal for many people. Scammers capitalize on the dreams of these would-be remote workers by luring them with fantastic yet realistic-sounding work-from-home opportunities. The catch? They just need to pay upfront for some equipment or educational materials before they can get started, but these never arrive, and there is no actual job.
Some scammers spend a fair amount of time creating official-looking emails from reputable service providers. They tell the target that the account is about to be suspended and that they need to provide information to keep it open. The email might include a link to a phishing site requesting login credentials and billing details to secure the “continuation of service.”
This one is more targeted toward businesses. The scammer identifies the person within a company that has control over funds. They then pose as someone with authority such as the CEO, and request money be transferred to a specified account. With all of the information available on LinkedIn these days, it’s fairly easy for fraudsters to identify who to target and to come up with convincing stories (see also: whaling).
This type of phishing requires some preparation because the scammer needs to act convincingly like the executive he or she is purporting to be. The fraudster will then contact someone in the company who has the authority to move money and direct that person to transfer funds to the scammer.
As with most phishing scams, CEO phishing is most effective when there’s a sense of urgency or emotionalism applied to the request. Therefore, many CEO phishers will zero in on new members of the finance department in the hopes that person does not yet know all the safeguards that may be in place to prevent the scam from working.
The very simplistic greeting card scam can be used to infect your computer with malware. The email poses as a greeting card (e-card) from a friend or family member and encourages you to click a link. Once you do, the malware is automatically downloaded and installed on your system.
Affinity fraud refers to when someone uses a common interest or belief such as religion to lure you in. It often happens in person, especially within religious communities, but can be conducted via email too.
Guaranteed bank loan or credit card
In this take on the advanced fee scam, you are told that you are preapproved for a loan or credit card but that you just need to pay some processing fees. It could be a small amount but fraudsters might be looking for banking info more so than the money itself.
This one often targets businesses and involves an email containing an invoice for legitimate-sounding services. A sense of urgency is used to convince the receiver that they need to pay immediately or risk having the case transferred to a collections agency.
Scam compensation scam
Yes, believe it or not, this one pops up regularly in spam folders. The email explains that its sender is coordinating some compensation for scam victims, and the receivers’ name is on a list of victims. You just need to send over some personal details before you can start collecting your compensation.