E-mail scams have become more common and much more sophisticated. Even the savviest e-mail user can be caught up by well-written and graphically-correct spam or phishing schemes. But there are ways to protect yourself and stay a step ahead of fraudsters. Here are a few tips:
Learn to spot imposters:
Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like your bank, the government, even a family member. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request. Double check the request with an online search or a quick phone call. You’ll find that banks and governments will never ask for personal information like account numbers via e-mail.
Google is your friend:
Do an online search with the words “scam” or “complaint” with “CRA call” or whatever describes your situation. You can even search e-mail addresses and phone numbers to see if they have already been reported as scams.
Don’t pay upfront:
You might be asked to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or even jobs. Scammers might say you’ve won a prize but you have to pay a fee to collect. If you do, it’s likely they will take your money and disappear.
Talk to someone:
Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust, says the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. Slow down and check out their story through an online search or consult an expert with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The centre also offers news on the latest scams and how they work.
Check the links:
Most e-mails programs will allow you to hover over links in an e-mail message, which allows you to see where the link is going to take you. If it’s not as advertised, it’s a scam.
Even if you follow sound advice, you can still fall for a well-executed fraud. Vancouver’s Thierry LeVasseur, who holds a number of patents related to secure e-mail, says scammers and hackers are capable of creating “incredibly sophisticated” phishing emails and sites that are designed to pass along malware, ransomware, and other types of viruses or fraud schemes.
“The majority of email systems are not designed to provide maximum security and privacy and so offer a way for those scammers and hackers to attempt to gain access to valuable information,” Levasseur said in a recent interview.
LeVasseur’s patented programs allow e-mail to be transmitted in a secure manner. In addition, there’s a way for users to view data about email messages before opening them, which can help you avoid malicious messages or attachments.
Although technical upgrades help, the best way to stop scam e-mails is to educate yourself. Keep on top of the latest fraud attempts and treat all e-mail as potentially suspicious, especially if it contains unexpected links or attachments. That doesn’t mean you have to stop using e-mail, just think twice before you open messages.