Scams Awareness Month: Top 5 email cons to look out for

May 2013 is Scams Awareness Month, currently being delivered by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) alongside the Trading Standards Institute.

According to the CAB, more than three million people in the UK fall victim to scams every year, costing the country a staggering £3.5 billion per annum. Virtually half of us (48 per cent) have now been targeted by a scam at some point, demonstrating the size of the problem being taken on in this month’s campaign.

For its part, technology continues to worsen the problem. Thanks to online banking and the convenience of using it from PCs and handheld devices, the accessibility of our personal finances has never been greater, with a wealth of avenues open to exploitation from cybercriminals.

With this in mind, security firm Cloudmark has ‘celebrated’ Scams Awareness Month by compiling the top five email scams to be wary of right now, hot on the heels of its big five SMS cons to look out for. According to Cloudmark’s filtering systems, here are the spammy emails most likely to be dropping in you inbox right now. Do not open…

The Big Five  

1. Lottery winnings - A classic advanced fee spam where the victim is told they have won a lottery they did not enter. A more recent variant on this uses the names of published lottery winners saying that they want to share the prize money. “We are Gillian and Adrian Bayford. My wife and I won the biggest Euro Millions lottery prize of £148 Million GBP and we just commenced our Charity Donation and we will be giving out a cash donation of £1,500,000.00GBP to 5 lucky individuals and 10 charity organizations from any part of the world.” Ignore.

2. eWhoring- This is what the guys running these scams call it. Also known as International Girlfriend scam. A beautiful woman in another country contacts you and wants to make friends. After a while she has a family crisis and she asks you to send a little money, then more money, then money for a plane ticket to visit you, then the trip is cancelled but the ticket is non-refundable and she needs more money.

3. Package delivery - You are notified that you missed a package delivery, and to receive it you have to open an attached delivery notice. The “delivery notice” is actually a virus which lets spammers take over your computer.

4. Phishing - Spammers are still trying to take over your bank accounts, Paypal accounts and credit cards by tricking you into entering your credentials on their web site. A sinister variant of this asks you to fill out an attached from to restore access to your PayPal account. As in the package delivery spam, the attachment itself is a virus, and just by opening the form you may compromise your computer, before you even start to add any personal information.

5. West African bank account scam – Yes, there are still people in Nigeria who are trying to send you money.