It is thankfully rare now, but I used to regularly get emails from Nigerian gentlemen asking me to help them get funds out of their country and promising a big wedge of cash to do it. Of course I would need to forward my bank details and an amount of money to enable them to release the funds, but I would be very rich once the transactions were complete. Or would I?
Such scams have gone into folklore and are so well-known that their very arrival can herald great hilarity. It can make your day to read the fictitious account of an ex-ruler and his struggles to escape with his trust funds intact. Most people would recognise it as a scam and ignore it with a smile of ‘can’t fool me’.
The problem is that the scammers are getting more and more clever. How about an email from your bank, warning that your account is about to be closed unless you log in and re-enter your details? How about one from Ebay warning that your account has been hacked and that you need to log in now using a link in the email? You might get a tempting job offer which promises lots of money in return for very little work or you may get a phone call telling you that you have won a holiday, but there are lots of hoops to jump through first.
There are three main rules to follow when dealing with suspicious emails:
Only enter card details on a secure website which usually has a picture of a padlock by the url. It is best to use a credit card then you will be better covered by insurance rather than your debit card. Sometimes people respond to ‘work from home’ ads, only to find that the work consists of finding other poor suckers to ‘work from home’. Ignore chain mail letters and use your spam filter to deal with false pharmacological emails. It is not worth ordering drugs from the internet as there is no guarantee that you are getting what you have paid for.
You would not buy something from a stranger who stopped you on the street: this is the same principle. Be wary of inputting your details into websites, question strange emails and make sure that you initiate all actions rather than react to them.
One thing: the idea for this article was inspired by a comment on a forum that rather made me laugh. Apparently the UK Government has urged people who have received spam emails to forward them on to the National Fraud Authority. However there is a problem: the techies who set up the website, set up strong spam filters and emails were being rejected as spam!
Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by ePublicist