No, You Didn’t Win the Lottery

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Have you ever received an email from the United Nations compensation Fund about a large sum of money that you are entitled to? The author may have had some incredible title with far too many words like, President Executive Director of International Compensation and Recovery, which makes the author sound mighty important. Maybe it is an urgent message from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service or Secret Service stating that you are under investigation for money laundering, or even that there is a problem with your income tax returns? At one point or another, we have all received these types of emails. The content of the emails may change, however, the ultimate goal of those behind the scenes remains the same – to get you to give them money or your personal information which of course they will then use to get your money.

When you received these emails, have you ever stopped and checked the email address? The President of Nigeria does not have an email address containing 32 numbers and letters. The FBI, DHS, and IRS do not send emails from Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail. These are government agencies whose email addresses end in .gov. In addition, it is important to note that government agencies do not use internet correspondence as a primary form of communication for the issues depicted in the emails. If you are under investigation by any of these agencies, or there is a relative issue with your information – they will send you a notice via postal mail, for example.

In order to avoid becoming one of the countless victims of these ploys by scam artists and identity thieves there are a few things you can do. Keep an eye out for things like the email address the message is being sent from, any gross grammatical or spelling errors. You can be fairly certain that the Central Intelligence Agency would use spell check if they ever were to send you an email. Simple errors are an indication of a scam email.

Alleged government agency emails are not the only scam emails out there. Watch out for any emails that may contain any of the following:

  • ‘Click here’ for more details
  • Hiring Immediately / Open vacancies
  • Quick Cash / Approval Department
  • Altered banking institution name
  • An email that never address you by name, but by ‘recipient,’ etc.
  • Secure business proposal
  • Inquiring your help with a sum of money from another country
  • Your Western Union Money Transfer is available
  • You’ve won the Lottery

 

There are a lot of scam emails out there and a million variations on each of them. The above list does not cover every scam email out there. Therefore, you need to be careful with all emails.  Do not click on any unknown links – you may just be giving a scammer access to your personal computer. Key-logger programs have been known to have been installed this way.  Once the link is clicked on, malware is installed allowing a thief to gain your personal information.

Furthermore, if you have not bought a lottery ticket or entered a raffle – you cannot win anything. England or Nigeria do not have lotteries. Also, if someone is requesting your assistance to transfer money from their account to yours – especially from another country, dont do it. You will find that your dreams of making a quick fortune turn into an empty bank account very quickly.

Other scam emails you may find are job emails, payday loan or quick cash emails. These can be extremely dangerous as most require handing over your Social Security number, and copies of your personal documentation. Those who fall for such scams may sometimes find themselves receiving threatening calls from alleged collection agents, such as attorneys. These “attorneys” threaten to put you in jail, to set a warrant for arrest, etc. They require payments for a loan, you may have never accepted.

If an unrequested email asks you to provide any of the following pieces of information, there is almost always a good chance it is a scam:

  • Full Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • Copies of personal documents
  • Driver’s License information
  • PINs
  • Account Numbers
  • Passwords

 

Always verify the source, and remember if you did not request information you should not be providing any in return. Also, if you are receiving correspondence from an institution, such as bank or government agency, their primary means of communication will never be electronic, especially, when it involves personal identifying information. Bottom line is that you should never provide personal information  via email. So, be careful and do not fall victim to scam emails!

 

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Nikki Junker

Nikki Junker is Social Media Coordinator and Victim Advisor at The Identity Theft Resource Center. She specializes in Identity Theft on social networks and smartphones. She enjoys working one on one with victims of identity theft as well as researching and writing about preventative measures for consumers.