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Over the years email scams have been very popular with scammers around the world.  They take many, many forms.  The old Nigerian Prince scam was so prevelant a decade or two ago that it has been infamous, a repeated meme, even today.  It would be impossible to cover every type of email scam which ever existed or ever will, but they all have some common factors to look out for.

There are many different types of email scams, but there are just a few basic themes common to almost all email scams.  Learn to spot those themes and you'll be well on your way to avoiding getting scammed by an email.

One common theme I have seen is that you are going to get something which you were not expecting.  The Nigerian prince died with no heirs and some guy needs your help laundering his millions, for which you'll get half.  You just have to send some money to get things started...  You won a lottery in Europe!  Never mind that you've never been to Europe.  You just need to send some money to get things started...

This type of scam promises you something big.  They tend to use terms which sound official and give seemingly legitimate reasons why you need to send them money or give them access to your bank account.  Since it's an international exchange they need to verify your account is real, or you just need to pay they surprisingly low legal fees up front, or for legal reasons you need to pay the courier who will deliver your check.  After all, the guy you're talking to doen't know you and can't be sure you'll pay the $2,000 delivery fee after you get your $200 million dollars.  They all try to get something from you BEFORE you get anything from them.  And then you never get anything from them.

The common theme one I have seen is the curious attachment scam.  Attached is the invoice you weren't expecting from the company you've never heard of.  You may not remember me (because I don't exist), but attached are some racy photos of me.  Attached are some legal documents you weren't expecting.  UPS was unable to deliver your package, random citizen!  What does a person with a package for you know about you?  Your name and address at least.  Those two things aren't in the email.  But you know what a package delivery company does NOT generally know about you?  Your email address!  Packages aren't delivered to email addresses.

Emails with attachments you weren't expecting may contain viruses.  If you weren't expecting the email and don't know the sender they almost certainly do.  If it's from a package delivery service, chances are unless you run a business which does a lot of shipping and have set up an account with them they do not have your email address.  Always be suspicious of attachments.  Be especially suspicious if there is a sense of urgency to the email.

The final and possibly most common theme ever is the redirect scheme.  You get an email from some company you DO know, like PayPal, your bank or Apple, telling you that there's something wrong with your account, perhaps that they detected some attempt to compromise your bank account, and you need to log in to your account to make sure everything is okay.  Just click the link right here in the email!  But the link doesn't take you to the real web page, it takes you to a fake web page made to look like the real web page.  When you attempt to log in you are really giving the scammer your login information.

This type of scam relys on people being creatures of convenience.  Most people will click the link in the email rather than go to the site themselves.  But email technology allows the scammer to create a link which looks like one thing but is really another thing altogether.  The link they want you to click on can actually display the address of your bank's web page even while it takes you someplace completely different.  The key to avoiding this scam is not to rely on your eyes.  Don't click on the link, open your browser and use your own shortcut or type in the website yourself.  If you do click on the link, look at the address in the Address Bar of your browser and make sure that it is correct.  Internet addresses are not as confusing as they first appear.  They all start with either http:// or https://.  After that there could be any number of things separated by dots.  That is followed by another / and some more text.  It is what is between the "//" and the first "/" you need to pay attention to.  Specifically, the last two items.  For instance, if it is www.kirbyscomputers.com then you need to look for the last two items, kirbyscomputers.com.  If the website is kirbyscomputers.scam.com, that is not the Kirby's Computers web page, it is a scam.com web page because it is those last two items which determine the actual place the web page is coming from.  And they may get sneaking.  It may be kirbyscomputers.com.ca.  That is also not the Kirby's Computers web page, it is a "com.ca" web page.