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The following is for informational purposes only

Top 5 Email Scams

Top 5 Email Scams

Individuals and organizations use email every day. Over the last three decades, email has become a go-to communication method, with most people having 2-3 email accounts and using them for varying purposes. While offering the convenience of speed, efficiency, and archiving, email use also poses the threat of email scams. Scams are regularly changing as technology advances, and email users grow wise to scams. To protect yourself from email scams, it is essential to stay informed about current email scams.

What are Email Scams?

What are Email Scams?

Email scams are emails that attempt to defraud the recipient in some way. A common category of scams is phishing emails. Phishing emails attempt to trick recipients into divulging private information, which is then used for identity theft. Phishing emails can also involve getting the recipients to send money to the sender under false pretenses. Targeted phishing emails are called spear phishing.

Phishing is a widespread occurrence in the U.S. In the first half of 2020, nearly 147,000 phishing attacks were reported. While this is an 11% reduction from the first half of 2019, this number is very high and a serious cybersecurity threat. It is important to note that these numbers do not include unreported occurrences. Many scammed email recipients do not report phishing attacks due to a lack of knowledge or embarrassment.

What are Email Scams?

Phishing accounts for 90% of all data breaches. It is estimated that 1.5 million new phishing sites crop up each month. Business networks attacks are the result of successful spear phishing 95% of the time. Phishing attacks are costly to businesses – the average cost of a phishing attack to a mid-sized company is $1.6 million. For this reason, businesses usually have a budget for cybersecurity protection.

Malware is software that is intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, or computer network. Malware types include computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, rogue software, wiper, and scareware. It is estimated that 92% of malware is delivered by email.

What are the Top 5 Current Email Scams?

What are the Top 5 Current Email Scams?
  1. Unemployment Email Scams - with the Coronavirus pandemic, many Americans are unemployed. Scammers are using this factor to get people to share personal information by email, under the pretense that this is for their unemployment claims. Most often, they pretend to be reaching out from a government agency. These emails trick people into providing private information that they then use to file a fraudulent claim under the recipients’ names. If you did not reach out to a government agency yourself, ignore such communications. If you did, make sure the communication is legitimate by accessing your claim number and calling the agency to confirm validity. Most often, government agencies will use regular mail for official communications.
  2. Stimulus Email Scams – the recent government stimulus package due to the Coronavirus has caused an uptick in this type of email scam. These scams urge recipients to pay for help accessing their benefits and share personal information to receive benefits. Many people fall for these email scams. As a general rule, government stimulus payments do not involve using a third party or paying them fees. Be cautious with such emails, and instead access your benefits information through official government agency websites, such as irs.gov.
  3. Tax Email Scams – while tax refund scams are not new, the fact that 2020 has had a tax deadline of June 15 increased the number of tax refund scams considerably. These email scams fool recipients into providing their personal information to receive their tax refund quickly. Once information is provided, it is used for identity theft or other fraudulent activities. Keep in mind that all tax refunds go through the IRS and that while legitimate accounting services can help you file your tax return, they are always initiated by you and not by an email communication.
  4. Charity Phishing Scams – these scams appeal to your giving side and urge you to donate money to a charity. Their pitch can be compelling, but these emails should always be verified.
  5. What are the Top 5 Current Email Scams?
  6. Fake Online Shopping Promotional Emails – these email scams contain links to shopping sites with deals that seem too good to be true. Recipients click on the phony site and fill their shopping cart, and then provide credit card information. It is essential to question deals that seem too good to be true. Also be sure to look at the URL you are visiting carefully. It is always a good idea to reach the company’s customer service by phone to feel out legitimacy. If all checks out, use a credit card with strong fraud protection just in case.

Email scams are not going anywhere, just changing constantly. Exercise caution when clicking into emails that seem suspect, and always refrain from providing personal information in response to emails. Keep yourself educated about emerging scams, and always check the fine details on emails you receive.

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