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7 Common Email Scams and Their Warning Signs

Spam email floods everyone's inboxes. While most choose to ignore them, some opt to open them lending themselves to the repercussions of spammers. In today's blog, we will discuss what some of the most common spam emails sound like, how they can affect you, and the warning signs to look out for. 

  1. Lottery Scam:

fullsizeoutput_183eThis is one of the oldest and most common types of email scams. This email will catch most people's eyes with the subject line stating you have won some type of grand prize, typically a large sum of money. In order to claim your prize, you must first pay the taxes on your winnings in addition to providing some type of personal information such as your name, address and/or phone number. The scammer will most likely ask you to send the taxes you must pay through a bank transfer. Once the money and personal information have been sent, the correspondence will stop, and you will no longer hear from the scammer.
Warning Signs This is a Scam:
  • Little to no information is provided about the company sponsoring the lottery or the lottery itself when performing a web search.
  • This will be an unsolicited email. If you have not signed up for this lottery, then how could you have won?
  • The sender of this email will not address you by first name, rather the salutation will say something along the lines of "Congratulations Winner".

2. Survey Scam:

fullsizeoutput_183fThis email scam looks innocent at first and is seen in two different scenarios. In the first scenario, you will receive an email asking you to take a survey. The email and the survey will look legitimate, however when you click on the survey link, malicious spyware or malware is installed on your computer. Once this software has been installed, spammers can spy on you, gaining access to private information, passwords, and bank accounts resulting in identity theft.
(In one of our previous blogs, we mention how spammers can gain access to including topics you have expressed interest in due to your web searches. Spammers can send you emails containing content related to your researched interests.)

In the second scenario, you will be sent a survey as well. This link will lead you to a site where you will perform the survey but before you do, you will be asked to enter your phone number. Now that scammers have your phone number, the scammer will then make charges to your phone account that you may or may not notice on your monthly bill. 

Warning Signs This is a Scam: 
  • Hovering your mouse over the link provided will show an illegitimate website.
  • Researching the company sponsoring the website will provide little to no search results.

3. Online Banking Scam:

With this scam, you will receive an email that seems to be from your bank informing you there is something wrong with your bank account and you will need to sign in online to correct the mistake. The email will provide a link to the log in page of your bank. At first glance, the link provided seems legitimate and looks exactly like your banks log in page. However, this link and page have been created by a spammer to collect the banking information you have provided to log in on the copycat page.

Warning Signs This is a Scam:
  • The URL shown when you hover your mouse over the link provided is different from the direct login page from the banks website.
  • The senders domain is different from your banks.
Anytime you receive an email like this, it is best to call your bank first to ensure there is a legitimate problem with your account. 

4. Nigerian Check Scam: 

fullsizeoutput_1841Like the lottery scam, this is one of the oldest and most common types of email scams. You will receive an email from a "Royal" sounding individual with an official name, from a foreign country. They will request your help to bring foreign money over to the United States and will ask that the money is transferred into your bank account. The scammer will reward you with a sum of the money in exchange for your help. Upon your agreement to help, the scammer will let you know there are fees associated with transferring the money that will come out of your end but you will be compensated for. Once you provide your bank account information and see the fees have been paid, the correspondence with the scammer will end leaving your bank account drained. 


Warning Signs This is a Scam: 
  • Performing a web search of the person who emailed you and yielding no information about them.
  • No one offers to send a stranger a large sum of money, trusting them return the money once they have come to the United States.

5. Items for Sale or Overpayment Scam:

You have placed a high priced item such as a car for sale online. The scammer, who will most likely be from overseas, finds your ad and sends you an email showing interest in your item. The scammer will offer you a price higher than what you are asking for to compensate for international shipping fees and will ask you to send a check for the difference when you send the item. The reason for overpayment is supposedly related to the international fees to ship the car overseas. You will receive a money order from the buyer that looks real enough for you to deposit it into your bank account. While you are waiting for the check to clear, your bank will informs you the money order is fake and that you must pay the amount back immediately. You have now lost the item, the money you sent, and had to cover the money from the bad money order. 

  Warning Signs This is a Scam:
  • Legitimate buyers do not offer to overpay for an item.

6. IRS or Government Scam: 

fullsizeoutput_1840This scam is similar to the online banking scam. You will receive and email that will appear to be from the IRS usually during tax season reporting your income for a given year has been flagged for review due to a documentation error. These emails can ask you for personal information related to clearing up a clerical error. 


Warning Signs This is a Scam: 
  • The IRS does not generally initiate contact with taxpayers through email.
  • The URL shown when you hover your mouse over the link provided is different from the direct login page from the banks website.
  • The senders domain is different from your banks.
If you receive any emails claiming to be from the IRS contact them via phone before providing any personal information. 

7. Fake Charity Scam:

Scammers will use disasters, illnesses, and popular causes to trick people into donating money. The scammer will pose as an agent from a charity well-known or made up, and will email you asking you to donate to their cause. They will provide a link to the website for the charity that will seem legitimate when in reality this charity may not exist at all. You will make the donation but it will never reach the intended cause, going straight to the scammers pockets. 

Warning Signs This is a Scam:
  • Hovering your mouse over the link provided will show an illegitimate website.
  • Researching the charity will provide little to no search results.

This blog is not intended to scare you from opening or responding to any legitimate emails that sound like the scenarios above. Rather it is intended to provide you with the warning signs and tools to help prevent you from being scammed. A very useful tool to combat these scam emails is Xeams. Xeams is designed to detect these spam emails based on key words and content that raise red flags based on the rules set by you, the user. Xeams prevents emails that appear to be malicious from reaching your inbox. 

And remember, if an email seems PHISHY, it probably is.

For more information about Xeams, visit or contact our support team via: 
Phone: 609-750-0007

Created on: Mar 22, 2017
Last updated on: Jul 12, 2024


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