5 Tips for avoiding email scams

Your email is a magnet for spam, with daily offers arriving in your inbox that seem too good to be true. Follow our five tips to keep yourself falling victim to scams and fraud.

No one is giving you money

Most email accounts are full of offers from lofty overseas characters, offering to send you untold riches after the demise of some major figure. The problem is, you are always asked to give over your bank details. While they can disguise the scam by linking it to the death of a real person, the first clue to their trick, and a basic rule of avoiding scams is that you should never give your details out to anyone, especially just on the basis of an email. Other clues are poor spelling, rampant capitalisation and the fact you might get five different offers in a week. 

 

About that "genuine" support email

Popular scams involve disguising an email so that it looks like it has come from a trusted technology company. This might be Microsoft, Symantec, Apple and so on. The email looks genuine, with logos and the company's standard email format. It might even say microsoft.com in the header. But if you look closely, usually by holding your PC's mouse cursor over the link, the real email address is totally different. So even if they say your PC is at risk, you can safely ignore the email and should never hand over mail to anyone offering technical support unsolicited. 

 

Medical dreams don't come true

A few folk have made a fortune packaging sugar pills or aspirin as all kinds of cures and posting them around the world to millions of suckers. Don't be one of them, because the only legitimate drugs in this country come from your local pharmacy. You might be attracted to these offers because of a potential saving, or because you're embarrassed to ask for them over the counter, but you'll be more embarrassed once you've been scammed by some online fraudster with a ludicrously cheap offer. 

 

No, you are not overdrawn!

Another common scam is an email pretending to be from your bank - usually an American one. If you happen to be a real customer of whatever bank the scammer is pretending to be, then you could be in trouble. If you believe that your account has been suspended or gone overdrawn, and fill in the little online form they provide - then you could just have given them your online account details. Think how your bank normally contacts you about these issues before responding to any banking emails, no matter how convincing they look. 

 

Keep the spam at bay

Most email services have a spam filter that dumps all junk mail, scams and other rubbish in the spam folder. If your service doesn't offer this, then find one that does to prevent 99% of the rubbish reaching your inbox. Then use your common sense on anything that does creep through and appear among your normal emails. If it looks too good to be true, that's because it is.