We’ve all received some sort of fraudulent email, whether it was from a Nigerian Prince looking to share his wealth or that sweepstakes prize you can’t claim until you pay the taxes. These emails are all designed to let your guard down and expose personal information that will be used to steal your money or even your identity.

Fraudulent emails have been increasingly more difficult to detect as the spam networks become more sophisticated.  No doubt some of these messages have been flagged by your IT Department, your Hotmail and Gmail accounts; however every once and a while one will slip through or make you believe it was accidently flagged as spam. 

Companies such as: FedEx, UPS, Royal Bank, Ebay, PayPal with a large online presence have well known email addresses that spam networks are increasingly using to bypass anti-spam filters to deliver convincing content.  

How to identify fraudulent emails

Typically these fraudulent emails will inform you of a fictitious problem. Examples are a failed delivery, a problem with your bank account or a payment was not able to go through.  These emails invite you to click on a link to help you resolve the “problem”. They are also known as phishing scams as they try and lure you into providing account information.

If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of any email

- Use your mouse and hover over the link: this will show you the intended destination of your click. If for example you have received an email from FedEx stating your package could not be delivered and you hover over the link, you would expect that it would take you to http://www.fedex.com,  however if it takes you to http://feiojfe.fjejjee.com/ you immediately know that this is an illegitimate email.

- If you ever have any doubt about the legitimacy of an email, simply pick up the phone and call the sender.  This will immediately confirm the validity of the email.

- Never reply or click on any links: by doing so will confirm your email address. Spam networks send out unique links to each of the thousands of addresses they are trying to exploit. By clicking a link or replying your email will be confirmed and added to a database.

If you still have any doubt, simply ignore or delete the email. Any of the companies you’ve dealt with has your contact information and if it is important enough, they will call you.

Why do they do it?

This is a question I often get asked and the answer is actually quite simple. Spam networks send out tens of thousands of emails at next to no cost. They are often generated from countries that have no anti-spam regulations thus there are no consequences and when you consider that in 2009, 12% of people in the United States actually purchased something through spam and even more fell victim to fraud through phishing scams, there is high reward for little work.

By following these tips you’ll be prepared for that convincing email that may have otherwise fooled you.

 Remember:” When in doubt, throw it out!”