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Internet and email scams

The variety of email and internet scams is ever increasing, as is their genuine and professional appearance. They are designed to extract money or personal details from recipients and arrive in your inbox in various guises including phishing emails, lottery winnings and prize draw emails and Nigerian 419 advance fee emails.

Nigerian 419 advance fee emails

These emails promise the recipient a substantial share of a multimillion bank account held by a deceased businessman / foreign dignitary etc. They propose that you act as an intermediary and pay a large ‘advance fee’ or ‘transfer fee’ to a bank official to help get the money out of the country. Needless to say the scenario is fictitious and the emails are designed to extract money from the recipient. If you receive an email similar to this then simply delete it without responding. Those responsible are outside of the UK and change their identities and email addresses frequently making tracking them down difficult.

Lottery winnings emails

Congratulations, you have won a fortune on the lottery! These are very common emails and letters you may receive. They claim you have won a substantial amount on a foreign lottery but you are asked either to pay a fee or a tax to release the funds or to provide your personal and bank account details. The aim of these emails is to obtain money or your details for the purposes of criminal activities. Do not respond and delete upon receipt.

Phishing emails

These types of emails usually purport to be from a bank or building society and ask you to follow the link in the email and enter your internet log on details to confirm them. The link they provide is not genuine and they then have access to your bank or building society account! Some may receive similar emails from organisations such as PayPal or Ebay. As with the other scams – do not respond and delete. You could also inform the organisation the email is purporting to be from.

Pop ups scam

This scam can affect you if you are using a dial-up connection to access the internet. Whilst on-line a pop-up box appears and the only way to close it is to click OK. Your existing connection will be lost and then redials using a premium rate number. If you notice a premium rate number on your telephone bill and you did not call this number you should contact PhonePayPlus – the regulator for phone-paid services in the UK. They may be able to investigate your complaint. If the service provider has broken PhonePayPlus’ code of practice they can be fined and ordered to give you a full refund.

Some tips to spot a scam

  • if it looks to good to be true, it probably is
  • don’t send money or your personal details
  • do not open emails or attachments if they are from someone you haven’t heard of or contain a file you weren’t expecting. The safest option is to delete it. Fraudsters and virus writers bank on you either being curious or opening things out of habit
  • be wary of following links in emails if you’re not sure where they’re going to take you
  • avoid websites that have a lot of pop-ups asking you to install software or sites that want to charge you for viewing them. Pornography sites tend to be where this happens the most. If you’re asked if you wish to install software, say no
  • upgrade the privacy and security settings on your computer
  •  install anti-virus and firewall software

If you would like advice on these, or any other scams, contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133

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