Remember when all you had to worry about was an email from the Crown Prince of Nigeria? I mean come on, who would fall for that!? Even if for some bizarre reason he didn't have a bank account, surely he has contacts who have. Why would he trawl the internet looking for a random email address?
Anyway, generally speaking the scams of today are a little more believable. They are often made to look like they have come from genuine companies, banks, even HMRC!
And some of the links take you to a website that is a clone of the real one, so it looks real.
How do you avoid getting caught out? Here are my tips:
How to spot a scam
1. Check spelling and punctuation.
It never fails to amaze me that scammers go to all the effort of cloning websites etc then don't spell check their emails. The number of them that have bad spelling, lack of punctuation and bad grammar is shocking. If the email sounds like it was written by a 7 year old, but claims to be from your bank, it's a scam!
2. Don't panic.
Often these emails (especially the PayPal ones) tell you there is a time limit or they will freeze your account. Breathe! Ask yourself how likely it is that a company will freeze your account permanently because you didn't change your password, or enter your bank details quickly enough. It is not going to happen. If a company genuinely need you to amend details because they fear you have been hacked, they will have already frozen your account for your safety. Once you prove you are you and amend the password, the account will be unfrozen.
3. Look at what they are asking you to do.
No reputable company will EVER ask for your bank details to be sent in an email, or for you to enter your password in an email.
4. Check the email address.
I remember getting an email about being owed money from HMRC. The spelling and grammar was good. It asked me to follow a link etc. I can't remember the exact email address, but it ended in @yahoo.co.uk. As if the HMRC aren't going to have their own email! Some small companies might genuinely not, so don't assume it is a scam just because of this (more on this later).
What do you do if you have checked all the above points, the email seems genuine, but there is still something a bit off about it?
1. If it is for a website like Paypal, Amazon etc, login in to the website to see if there is any indication there is a problem on the account. DO NOT do this via any links in the email. Open a separate tab and manually type the web address in.
2. If it is something like your bank, HMRC etc, call them and ask them if there is any truth to the email. DO NOT call on the number in the email. Some scammers go to extreme lengths, including a phone line which they answer with the appropriate company name. Call them from the number you have for them, or Google it if you don't have it.
1. Trust your gut instinct. If it feels wrong, ignore it. If it is genuine, the company will contact you via a different method if they get no response.
2. The most important one: If it seems to good to be true, that's because it is! These scams are very good at presenting something that you will want, otherwise, no one would bite!
Have you ever been caught out by an email scam? Do you have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments :)