Email Scams Targeting Seniors
In recent years, seniors and many others have fallen victim to email scams. These scams prey on the victims’ trust, and allow them to move forward with fraudulent transactions. Although there are many different email scams, here are two popular scams to watch out for.
Nigerian 419 Scam
The Nigerian 419 scam is the most popular email scheme. It is called 419 because that is the penal code section in Nigeria for fraud. This scam originated in Nigeria, but is no longer confined to just that country. In the original scam, the scammer claims that a person of royalty in Nigeria (usually a prince) is imprisoned, needs to leave the country, their accounts frozen, and wants to move millions of dollars but cannot without your assistance. After attempting to develop a rapport with you, they will ask for personal information (e.g. bank information) so that you can transfer funds to them for a “small” price. In return, you will receive millions of dollars when the prince is freed. Unfortunately, this is not the case and you will have your hard earned money stolen. To make matters worse, the scammer may continue the scheme by claiming there were problems with the original payment (e.g. extra transaction fees, legal fees, other hidden costs, etc.) and needs another payment to cover the additional expenses. If you allow this, the payments can continue for a prolonged period of time, possibly leaving you bankrupt. Other variations on this scam include: scammers claiming you are the benefactor of an inheritance, the scammer posing as love interest, scammers seeking or offering jobs, and scammers posing as the U.S. Government.
There are a couple of signs to look for in these situations. The email may be in broken grammar, but this is usually part of the plan. They want you to believe you are smarter than the scammer so that you will continue with the process. They offer large returns for a smaller investment. They will also attempt to get your private information, such as bank account numbers or social security numbers.
Another popular scam is called phishing (pronounced “fishing”). Phishing is when a scammer attempts to get personal information from you while pretending to be someone else. They may pretend to be your bank or other reputable companies you trust.
The scammer will send an email stating something like, “Your account has been accessed and need you to click the link in the email and go to their page.” Once there, you enter your information as you normally would if you were dealing with people you trust. The email and the web page may look real, but there may be some differences. From this page, they can steal your account name and password.
There are some things to look out for in order to avoid becoming a victim of phishing. Beware if the email asks you for personal information. This is the first sign of a scam. There may be misspellings in the email. Scammer may use scare tactics in order to get you to “verify” your personal information by clicking a link. They may not use your name, saying something like, “Dear valued customer” instead. It is useful to hover your mouse over the link and see where the page actually goes (usually this can be seen at the bottom of the browser window). If they ask for sensitive information in the email itself, don’t reply back. Contact the company through their official contact on their real webpage and find out if the situation is real.
Remember scams that encourage you to give small amounts money to get a large payouts are never true. Pay close attention so you can prevent becoming another one of their victims.