USUALLY email scams are sources of entertainment which end up in our junk mail. But when our law office launched its website, we received at least two email scams. We did not realise this at first; they appeared to be prospective clients in need of legal advice. Here are our top ten tips so you can spot an email scam.
1. Does not address you directly: Most email scammers are so lazy that they send out generic email scams hoping that some unsuspecting internet users will take the bait. If the email is not addressed to you by name, delete it!
2. Bad grammar and typos: The emails are usually badly written. Research has shown that a popular hot spot for email scammers is in Nigeria. In other words, English may not be their first language and their writing skills may be poor. For example, they may call themselves by their surnames instead of the first names or not recognise that the gender of the recipients.
3. Requesting your personal information: For example, the email scammer may state you have won a lottery and he or she needs you to confirm your personal information. Did you buy a lottery ticket? Then how could you have won a lottery if you never bought a ticket?
4. Time sensitive: On more than one occasion, we received an email from the Editor of this newspaper’s email account stating that he had been mugged in Spain and needed money right away to return home. What is wrong with this picture? Did you know the individual was going to Spain? If so, is it likely he or she would ask YOU for money? If the answer is known, the email account (as it was in this example) could have been hacked, and he never sent the email at all!)
5. Email links in an email from a stranger’s email: Open the link and you may have just caught a virus or allowed the email scammer access to your email account. If you get a link that you are not familiar with, even from someone you know double check with them that they emailed it to you, otherwise delete it!
6. Asking for your bank details: The email scammer could set up a possible scenario. He or she is interested in purchasing property in the island and would like you to handle the transaction. Lawyers and real estate agents beware! You are the likely targets of this one. They will ask some questions to gain your trust, like suggest that although they have NEVER been to the island, they have heard about your reputable company or business online or from a friend etc. They will then ask for your bank details in order to transfer funds to you to purchase property (and your fees). Sounds too good to be true? Then it usually is! Don’t give your bank details, otherwise they could indeed transfer funds to your office account, and a day or two later claims that they have changed their minds, and wish to purchase property in Spain instead. They will ask for a refund. Of course, they anticipate that you will charge them something for your assistance but they are willing to do so because they are MONEY LAUNDERERS! ( More on Anti-Money Laundering laws in a future article.)
7. Fed ex scams: They will claim that a parcel has arrived for you and you are not expecting anything. It isn’t your birthday, Christmas or any other special occasion. We would advise you to call Fed ex directly and verify this information. Chances are there is no package for you. Perhaps they were hoping you would send personal information to confirm that the package is yours.
8. Long lost relative scam: “Dear friend, you are the only beneficiary of ABC…” and you have never heard of ABC. It is most likely a scam! Why would a long lost relative that you have never heard of, leave money to you? Lots and lots of money? It is a scam! The scammer will ask for your personal information to verify that you are who you say you are. DON’T DO IT!!
9. Jimmy Bishop, Barrister: Confidence artists pretend to be lawyers to gain trust of their victims. After all, if a lawyer is contacting you, it must be official business? Not if the individual is NOT a lawyer. Lawyers do not write: “I am Barrister Jimmy Bishop, QC, solicitor at law”. This scammer would want you to participate in assisting in monies in a trust fund left by a dead client and you will get a percentage if you assist. This is a scam!
10. Market research or surveys: These are particularly alluring as they appear innocent. They will ask you to file out a survey to evaluate a new perfume that is coming on the market. So there is no way to check whether is true or not. At some point, you would be required to enter some personal information for marketing purposes. This is likely to be a scam. They want your personal information for their illegal activities, for example, identity theft or money laundering.
Ms. Trudy O. Glasgow is a practising attorney at the law firm Trudy O. Glasgow & Associates, a Court-Appointed mediator and author in Saint Lucia (and has also taught law at University level in the UK)* Ms Glasgow is also the current Vice President of the Bar Association of Saint Lucia.
This column is for general use only, for advice specifically for your case, please see your lawyer.
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