Email Scams

Email scams have flourished due to the ease and cost effectiveness with which people can now communicate using the internet and email.

Email provides a way to communicate with lots of people all over the world for almost no cost, and with a few clicks of a mouse.

There are also ways to maintain anonymity when sending emails. This has provided fertile opportunities for scammers, criminals and spammers.

Email addresses harvested from the internet by software can be bought by the million on CD for a few dollars.

Scammers from all over the world using these addresses can use email scams to steal money or personal information from unsuspecting victims.

The key is to educate yourself about the different type of scams and how they work, and also pass the information on to others to help prevent being scammed.

Types of Email Scams


Phishing email scams are designed to trick victims into providing personal or financial information such as credit card or logon details.

You usually get a fake email that looks like it is from organizations such as banks, financial institutions, internet service provider or online service providers requesting you to 'confirm', 'update' or 'validate' your account information.

They provide a link in the email that directs you to a site that looks similar to the legitimate website, but are designed to trick you into entering your personal information.

This information is then on-sold or used for fraud or criminal purposes.


Lottery email scams start with an email that claims you have won a large amount of money [in a lottery you didn't buy a ticket in!]. This should send some red flags.

How can you win a prize if you didn't buy a ticket! If you respond to the email you will be asked for personal details to verify that you are the correct person to receive the money. If you provide bank account details, the scammers are likely to help themselves to any money in it.

If you provide personal information, this will be on-sold to be used to commit fraudulent or criminal activities.

Then you will usually be asked to send money to cover taxes, customs, duties, fees or other expenses to cover delivery of the supposed winnings. The scammers will pocket any money you send, as well as use the personal information you sent for illegal purposes.

email scams

Advance Fee Fraud

You can read more about these email scams on our pages covering the 419 scam, Nigerian email scams, and Nigerian scams.

It is called the advance fee fraud because the email asks for your help accessing a large sum of money in a foreign bank account for which you will receive a percentage, however sooner or later you will be asked to provide money [advance fee] to allow the deal to proceed.

There will continue to be 'money hurdles' that prevent the release of the big payout, until it becomes obvious that it is a scam, or you run out of money.

Employment Scams

You may receive an unsolicited email offering you a very highly paid job, where you can almost 'state your conditions'. The email asks you to send your CV with personal details for contact purposes. It is just a disguised identity theft where all the scammer wants is your personal information that will be on-sold to be used for illegal purposes.

A variation is to offer a job that involves processing international payments, usually on behalf of a company that doesn't have an office in your country yet, and then once the checks are banked into your account, on-paying the money [less your commission] into their overseas account or by using wire transfer.

The checks will be fraud, or you will be prosecuted for money laundering!

Auction Scams

These scams mainly involve online auction scams that want your property or your money and are covered in our section on eBay scams.

What to look out for in Email Scams

There are many variations to the email scams, however be wary of unsolicited emails that:

  • Offer lucrative business opportunities
  • Advise you have won prizes or money, especially when you haven't bought a ticket
  • Ask you to click on a link to go to a website to logon to an account
  • Ask for donations
  • Offer jobs with high remuneration
  • Ask you to provide personal information

What to do to Prevent Email Scams

  • Don't respond to emails that request your personal or financial information
  • Don't send money now on the promise of a pay-off later
  • Don't click on links in emails. If you are unsure if the email is a scam, manually type in the organization's address, or ring that organization's phone number that you know is genuine. The links may also contain a virus if you click on it
  • Don't cut and paste the link from the email into your address bar as the address on the link may be different to the address where you are taken
  • Do use anti-virus, internet security and firewall software and keep them up to date
  • Don't respond to emails requesting your help getting money out of a foreign country

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