Email Fraud: What It Is and How to Spot the Signs

Did you know that 2.4 billion emails are sent each second? There is no question about the popularity of emails in business and personal communications, which likely explains why they have become a favored medium for launching fraudulent schemes.

Email fraud has been steadily rising and stands to pose various threats to your personal safety. So, taking a moment to understand what exactly it could involve and how you can detect its warning signs is essential for using emails securely and effectively.

Understanding Email Fraud

Email scammers will almost always impersonate an organization or individual you are already familiar with or know well. This is because familiarity creates trust, making it easier to lure you into a scam.

But what do these fraudsters want? They are typically interested in money or identity-related information, such as account login credentials, financial details, tax IDs, and SSNs.

Here are a few examples of how email scams could target you for financial fraud or identity theft using impersonation and phishing techniques:

  • “Claim your prize” emails that ask you to fill out an online form with your SSN and tax information to claim your winning.
  • “Your account has been locked” emails from an email provider requesting you to enter your login details to reset your password.
  • A desperate plea from a loved one asking you to wire some money to help get them out of trouble.
  • An IRS email warning you about a delayed tax payment and demanding immediate settlement with a wire transfer.
  • “Confirm your account details” email from a well-known retailer that urges you to log in to your account using a link provided.
  • Emails promoting investments that promise above-average returns. They may ask you to download a virus-infected brochure to learn more information.

Note that all the above could be impersonation scams where fraudsters imitate legitimate people and entities to trick you. Many will simply use spoofed emails that resemble the ones sent by the respective entity or person they are mimicking. Some could also come directly from the email box of a family member, friend, or colleague following a hacking attack.

How Can You Spot Email Scams?

Impersonation frauds can be alarmingly convincing. However, detecting them is not entirely impossible when you know the giveaway signs.

●     Language errors

Reputed organizations will ensure their emails are professionally written, error-free. So, any email containing obvious spelling and grammar mistakes likely didn’t originate from reputed entities.

●     Generic greetings

Criminals often send their deceptive emails to hundreds and thousands of people at once. These emails will carry generic greetings that do not refer to the receiver by name.

●     Unexpected communications

Many of the time, shady emails will catch you off guard and will not be part of an ongoing communication you had initiated.

●     Suspicious requests

If an email asks for unnecessary personal details or a payment using unusual transaction modes, such as wire transfers and cryptocurrency, there is a high chance it is scam-related.

●     Vague messages

Do the details given in an email seem unclear, misleading, or inconsistent? Then, it could be a sign of fraud.

●     Attachments and links

Fraudulent emails often contain links to spoofed websites designed to phish for your information. These emails could even download malware to your devices via attachments or malicious sites, also with the intention to steal your data.

●     Sense of urgency

This is another common theme among almost all deceptive emails. Remember, time constraints add extra pressure on you to make hasty decisions without weighing up facts.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself Against Fraudulent Emails?

The telltale signs of an email scam can help you detect and avoid racketeers and minimize many of the threats. However, the following steps are also critical for amping up security and mitigating risks.

●     Stay informed

Technology evolves at a rapid pace, and so do scammers as they find new and more advanced ways to dupe their victims. So, education is imperative for remaining safe in the digital world. News sites and social media are excellent resources for this.

●     Authenticate requests

Validating any type of email request you receive is an important practice for safeguarding yourself against impersonation scams that are often hard to identify.

For example, you may receive an email from your boss requesting a monetary transaction or confidential information. Before you readily oblige, always inspect the email address to confirm it matches the regular email ID used by the sender.

You should also call up the relevant person and verify the email content. However, never use the contact details provided in the email. Instead, find a phone number on your own. Perhaps you may already have one if you have been in touch with them before. Or else, ask someone you know or search online.

If you don’t personally know the email sender, avoid clicking on links or attachments. Do some research to confirm their authenticity. For instance, if the email contains a contact number, you can search it on PhoneHistory to learn more about the relevant person.

●     Block and filter

If you come across a suspicious email, block it immediately by marking it as spam. Also, make use of the spam filters provided by your email service provider to prevent such emails from reaching your inbox.

●     Raise awareness

Keep all those close and dear to you informed of fraudulent emails you receive. This is essential for building awareness among more people and creating a stronger resistance against email scams.

Don’t forget to alert the Federal Trade Commission, too.

●     Take preventative steps

Certain steps can help strengthen your regular security barriers and minimize email scam threats. These include protecting your devices with anti-malware solutions, practicing caution when responding to emails, and keeping your personal and business data secure.

Wrapping Up

Email scams are exceedingly common, making them a prevalent threat to your safety. However, there are typical warning signs that could give them away, enabling you to detect and avoid them swiftly. Having said that, identifying them can be tricky at times. With ample security measures, you can still remain safe and minimize their risks in such situations.