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Privacy & Security USA > Alerts > Email scams - how to spot them!

Email scams - how to spot them!

Emails masquerading as notifications from Financial Institutions are an ongoing challenge for consumers. While variations of this type of fraud attempt pop up all of the time, these “phishing” emails have become a regular occurrence.

Remember that criminals are behind phishing emails. Their intention is to get at your personal information which they may use to commit financial fraud or identity theft

If you are unsure if an email request is legitimate or not, take a few moments to verify the request before you give out information or click on a link. Just ensure that you verify the request using another source, not a source that is provided within the email itself. Remain wary of unsolicited email and always be cautious in your online activity. Those simple steps can help protect you from falling victim to a scam.

Your best defence against these email scams remains knowing how to recognize them:

  1. Phishing emails do not only begin with a generic greeting such as "Dear Client". They can also address you directly by name or email address.
  2. Beware of emails requiring your “immediate action” in order to prevent a service from being shut down unless you log on “now” or enter your personal, financial or credit card information. These are classic phishing email techniques and should always be viewed skeptically;
  3. Be suspicious of all unsolicited emails that request personal information, even if you recognize the name of the sender. Though that email may contain your name and other information that applies to you, it may still be a scam;
  4. Don’t be fooled by emails that offer “too good to be true” enticements, 
  5. Email scams regularly take advantage of timing and promote fraudsters’ phony websites:
    1. when tragic incidents occur, fake charity sites pop up;
    2. when “juicy” stories make the news, websites promising the latest pictures or information quickly surface;
    3. for sporting events, phony websites offer amazing deals on seating;
    4. on occasions such as tax season, emails try to scare you into entering personal information on a fake website;
    5. for annual holidays, fraudsters’ websites promise “unheard of” shopping deals.

The goal of all of these scams is to get you to click on a link or access the fraudsters’ website. The result could be an automatic attempt to secretly load malicious code to your computer. Or the email or website could contain convincing tactics to get you to enter your credit card or other personal information that could be used to commit financial fraud against you.  

For more information on phishing, including how to report phishing emails and fake websites, please see Email and Website Fraud.