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Email Scams - 5 Ways to Avoid Being Tricked
Emails scams are often more subtle than you’d expect; they generally won’t set off any flashing lights or alarm bells like when someone is trying to steal a car. But just like with other forms of break-ins or robberies, there are signs to watch out for.
Some of these signs are obvious while others can be just clever enough to make you stop and think. Thinking is the key word here, however, and scams can be easily avoided if you follow some simple rules.
1. Read every email with a critical eye
The first thing you need to do is to take a critical approach to any emails that land in your inbox.
If a letter from your “bank” looks like it’s been written by a 12 year old with bad spelling, it’s definitely a fake. Alternatively, you really need to change banks.
Also watch out for emails that are written entirely in caps. Unless you regularly get shouted emails, you can generally assume that caps mean that it’s a scam email.
An email with a strange sender name or one that doesn’t match the email address should also set off alarm bells. Never click any links or download any attachments if you have doubts about an email, especially if you don’t know the sender.
It’s basically a good idea to employ the old casino principle of JDLR – be wary of something if it Just Doesn’t Look Right.
2. Don’t give out personal information
Your bank or PayPal are never going to ask you for personal information in an email. This just doesn’t happen.
If you are genuinely worried that it may be genuine (it’s not), ignore the email and contact the bank or institution directly to see if any action is required (it isn’t). Never give out your account number or password via email.
3. Don’t send anyone money
Some of the oldest scams in the business will ask you to send money in some form.
A famous example is where a prince asks you to help him access his saving account or transfer money from overseas. All he needs is for you to cover the administrative fees and you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a sum of money that’s far in excess of your original investment.
Just like all those princes you used to read about in fairy tales, this one isn’t real either.
4. Apply common sense
If you get an email telling you that you’ve won a lottery, you can guess that it’s a fake. The same principle applies to competitions that you didn’t enter.
One of the ways that scammers work is by appealing to people’s curiosity or naivety. There’s probably a small child in each of us that wants to reach out and grab the shiny prize. However, this is one of those occasions when you need to ignore your inner child and channel the responsible adult section of your brain.
You probably haven’t won the lotto or a prize, but you will end up richer if you avoid the obvious phishing scam in your inbox. If it does seem true and you really must know, look the company up and phone them.
But remember: exercise caution!
5. Stay calm
Scammers will often send threatening emails that try to make you act quickly out of fear. Your account is about to be closed, or a friend is in trouble, or you left the iron on and they’re the only ones who can turn it off. That type of thing.
If the letter is telling you that an urgent action is required, stop and think about it. Does it sound logical? Can you directly contact whoever the threat is from or the person it is related to? Scammers put a time limit on an email to panic you into action.
So stay calm, think about what you’re being asked, and then calmly delete the email and empty your thrash.
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