Unfortunately, a number of email scams continue to stick around on the Internet. They come out like locust, often saturating the whole electronic medium, creating unnecessary mayhem for countless numbers of unsuspecting victims. One of the most popular email scams (one that has been around now for about 6 years) is the one which basically warns people that cell phone numbers, which are supposedly about to go public, will now be used by telemarketers to make an overwhelming number of calls to recipients at their expense; the email goes on to tell people that they need to register their number with the national DO NOT CALL list, that their number will be added to a new 411 directory being created which will further compromise their privacy, that they need to urgently take action, and that there is a deadline within which they need to act. While this email contains a little bit of truth, it is mostly false!
Yes, people can add cell numbers to the DO NOT CALL list, but there is no more impetus for doing this today than there was 6 years ago. As of now, telemarketers are prohibited from using automated dialers (which most telemarketers heavily depend upon) to dial cell phone numbers and there is no indication that telemarketers want to use cell numbers in this manner, probably because they know that people will resent paying for a sales pitch from total strangers. While telling people to add their numbers to the DO NOT CALL list is, in itself not harmful, the urgency with which this suggestion is made in these emails is simply unnecessary and out of order.
As for the 411 cell phone number directory, yes, this directory is being compiled, but such information will be imparted only by phone (as opposed to being published on the Internet), only to people who dial directory assistance (for which they will pay a fee-something which telemarketers will simply not resort to, considering the expense involved), and only with customer consent. This directory, though, is not a recently development and does not, like the previous bit of news, deserve the call for urgency in the emails in question.
Another popular email scam involves an appeal for support for a foreign company (sometimes backed or owned, supposedly, by domestic investors or owners) that is about to develop a renewable energy source, system, process or substance. The potential victim being approached, often being told to think of this opportunity in terms of environmental responsibility, a chance to save the planet, or possibly making a good return on a worthy investment, is then given a pitch which may involve facts and figures and perhaps even the mentioning of a legitimate company or organization.
Despite the apparent sincerity of the appeal, these are mere scams. As many experts point out, very rarely would anyone with a good investment opportunity approach total strangers-if they do so, it would be preceded by some sort of presentation where a prospectus would be offered or be made available. In other words, it would be something that would give prospective investors plenty of opportunity to check out the opportunity to save the planet or to make some money. Under no circumstances should ever support or invest in any cause or opportunity until and unless you have thoroughly checked out the offer.
Another popular email scam involves your being told that there is a package from DHL or UPS (or some other well-known package delivery company) which could not be delivered. The email goes on to give you a link that you must hook up to in order to be given a number that you will need in order to follow up on this situation. Whatever you do, do not open that link. If there is any chance at all that a package was sent to you, you are better off calling directly the package delivery company in question-either that, or go directly to their website. Accessing links from unsolicited mail is one of the most effective ways to pick up a nasty virus or be sent to a website that you are better off not visiting.
Yet another email scam involves your being asked to update information for an account of some kind. No reputable company will update information on their database in that manner. If in doubt, again, go to the official website of the company in question. Do not use any links being given on the email, even if you see the logo or website address of a legitimate business in the email.
As a general rule, do not open emails from people or organizations you are not familiar with. Also remember that some scam artists find ways to use the URL or the email address or titles of legitimate businesses and individuals, meaning that the warning to only open emails from people or organizations you know may not be a totally safe option. Check to see not only if you recognize the sender but whether the “subject” description is in keeping with what you might receive from the sender; if you open the original email, pay special attention to the content. Does it sound like something the organization or person in question would send you? If the message is unusual in any way, close it immediately-you may also delete it altogether.
If the email in question puts emphasis on your need to take immediate action, if it asks you for money or mentions money at all, if it asks you for any kind of information (even if it may seem harmless to you, like confirmation of your email address), if it asks you to open any kind of link, if it contains an attachment of a questionable source or origin, if it contains misspellings and bad English communication (a sure sign that it was composed by a foreigner in a different country), if it is not addressed to your specific email address, if it is obviously a mass-produced email (not addressing you directly by your correct name), and, most importantly, if it is from someone you do not know and have not had any dealings with in the past, do not open the email. If you decide to open it, do not take any action directly connected to it until and unless you verify that what it says is accurate and non-malicious, preferably through sources not directly connected to the email.
While these emails are not likely to go away, it is possible for you to protect yourself against them. They not only threaten your identity and your bank account, they may also threaten your personal safety and, at the very least, the “health” of your computer. If these emails are not after your money, they probably carry some kind of virus, some of which come disguised as screen saver files (which are virtually undetectable by anti-virus software); their purpose is to absorb information from your computer, plant something into it or harm your computer in some way.
1. Legler, Ken. (2010). “The Truth-O-Meter Says: ‘Cell Phone Numbers Go Public This Month'”: http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2010/apr/14/ken-legler/rep-ken-legler-said-cell-phone-numbers-will-be-rel/
3. “Ask the Attorney General: Can Telemarketers Call My Cell Phone” (2010): http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/consumers.aspx?id=1000#
3. Press Release. (2008) “FBI Identifiable Recurring Fraudulent Email Scam”: http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel08/escams_20108.htm
4. Goel, Vindu. (2008). “Renewable Energy Appeal is Newest Twist on Old Email Scam”: http://acapella.harmony-central.com/archive/index.php/t-1994505.html