The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Avoid Getting Scammed Through Emails
Email is probably one of the greatest inventions of the century, allowing us to send messages to people from around the world in seconds to minutes, and receive a response time within just a few minutes. It allows us to keep in touch with friends and family, expand our businesses worldwide, and buy online without ever having to leave our homes. Billions upon billions of emails are sent every year, and unfortunately, only a smaller percentage of them are actually emails we want to receive.
Some of these emails we solicit ourselves, from signing up from newsletters or websites that offer their services, in order to know the latest trends, shopware, or information. This, too, can feel like spam email, and sometimes, it is almost best to unsubscribe from it all, unless they offer an option to receive emails once or twice a month instead of daily. There are, however, on many occasions, fake emails from Nigeria, fake emails from your credit card company, fake job offers, and fake emails from Paypal or any other payment services you may use. Scammers will try just about anything, and what they are trying to do every time: Get enough information about you so they can steal your identity or steal the money in your bank account. These are professionals at work who make their living on scamming hundreds to thousands of people out of their hard-earned money every year.
They might spend an 8-hour or longer work day specializing in this, responding to emails, telling you that you won the lottery or are suffering from the loss of someone you don’t even know, but are entitled to an inheritance of whatever money is not really there (it is likely that not even your own mother or aunt has $10 million British pounds to give you, sorry–my condolences–but if she was not rich in life, chances are, whatever life insurance policy there was, it isn’t going to pay out $10 million British pounds or dollars), because no one actually died. There are even more scams to tell you that there were issues with your Paypal account, your bank account, your mortgage, etc., and if a link is offered within this email and you click it, you are likely giving away any potential information. This is how email accounts also get hacked, such as the notorious hacking of the emails from the DNC in 2016. Without even knowing it, your information can be stolen in seconds, and you gave it away unknowingly and willingly.
Instead of getting scared or panicking immediately about an email that looks legit, yet seemingly suspicious, read the email carefully. Re-read it. Print it out. Proofread it. Highlight it. Get your family in on it to read it. Get your best friend to read it. Get the IT guy at work to read it. Spend more than an hour reading it if you must. It is likely not real. If any company is legit enough, they will usually call you or text your phone number, if you are enrolled, to see if you purchased something. This email shows the vulnerabilities within an email. Most scam emails usually contain:
- A non-legit email address
- Misspelled or broken words, sentences, or paragraphs
- They missed a period in the first sentence
- They also missed a period after the first paragraph
- Lots of improper spacing for how Paypal actually writes a professional business email
- English is very poor
- While they have learned NOT to write like this, “U owe da monies”, the writing is still very poor quality for what is expected of the English language and a professional business email
- Missing logo or other common phrases from Paypal
- Missing signature from actual person contacting you
- Very little details in the email for why you are actually receiving the email and any identifying information regarding your account
- Where is the ID number associated with your Paypal account?
- A link to the site which is not the legitimate site at all
Official Paypal emails:
- At the bottom of every Paypal email, you can usually find this line:
- PayPal is committed to preventing fraudulent emails. Emails from PayPal will always contain your full name. Learn to identify phishing.
- If the email does not mention your FULL NAME at all, delete it immediately!
- Legit Paypal logos
- Common Paypal email addresses
- Paypal emails will never ask you for your password or credit card information directly
- Almost all Paypal emails are automated and not sent manually
- If Paypal emails are sent manually, it usually arises when you have requested it (i.e. made Paypal aware that your account was involved in fraudulent activity or your password was stolen, than usually a live person may email or call you directly to assist you, but you must have first manually applied for this)
If you are asked to go to the website, instead of going through the email, ALWAYS open up a new tab and type in the URL to the website. Login through the actual website and check to see what they are talking about. If you are still curious or confused, get the official business contact number, and call the number directly. Get a live person from customer support on the phone and ask them if they sent an email to you.
These businesses keep track of EVERYTHING. When you hop on the phone, they even tell you that they are recording your conversation with them. Of course, this is to protect them and their employees from any wrongdoings that may arise, which can be used in the court of law as evidence against you or to protect them. There is certainly nothing wrong with these practices, as it can always be to your advantage as well. For example, if someone calls in and pretends to be you, and manages to make it through and has a successful conversation and transaction, but it is not your voice, the whole thing was recorded.
Fortunately for most people who have learned to understand email scams, they can spot these illegitimate emails a mile away, as the people who are sending them, especially from whom are from other countries and have never actually learned to write an official business email, and their English is usually far from perfect, and give away their incompetence right in the email scam. I, personally, have spoken to many people from other countries, through chatting via Gmail, Skype, or other service, and while their English is near perfect and they write very well, there are usually certain words or phrases that are not common in English, that most English writers and speakers do not use, that they end up using. They are certainly not wrong, as English is quite forgiving and accepting of many ways of writing or talking, but as an official English speaker whose first language is English, it is normally easy for all of us to spot a non-English speaker vs. a native English speaker, the same way that any native speaker of any language can spot a non-native speaker.
Since scamming is a full-time job to many people and companies who make their living doing it, the cleverness of the scam gets millions of people ever year. In 2016 and 2017, the IRS texting and phone scam arose, and managed to con people out of millions of dollars, despite the reality that the IRS will always send a legitimate letter to your address first, and asking you to call them if it is a priority. If in doubt, never ever reply to any scam email. Always go to the official website and send an email through there or find a phone number where you can speak to a live person. You may also look up non-emergency police numbers in your area. It is as easy as searching for “non-emergency police numbers in [your area]” and you will get a few police departments that list their number. This is better than calling 911, since it is not technically an emergency, but you can always ask someone on the phone if it is a scam or not, and they will most likely be able to help you.
For the most part, take your time and examine the email. You will usually find an abundance of flaws within it. Credit card companies, Paypal, and other services have spent a considerable amount of time writing out a template which is used by their service, and is nearly flawless, while most scammers, who are from other countries, while they have learned how to speak English, are rare to have spent time perfecting their emails, and most of them use templates that their boss or another co-worker gave them, so you can usually tell the difference between the a legit professional email and a non-legit email.
If you have been scammed, I wish you had gotten to this confession earlier, but it is here now to help you and spread the word to others. Stop trusting everything on the Internet. While there are many people who are legitimate and honest, there are just as equally enough, if not more, who are making a living and benching on you giving them your hard-earned paycheck for free. Be conscious and aware of the issue and even learn how to ignore such emails. You will be doing yourself a favor in the long run. Once these people have stolen your identity or your money, it is going to be a long and hard journey for you to recover. Avoid these troubles by learning about email scams and ignoring those emails.