The Daily Spammer

Received any e-mails from Nigerian millionaires lately? Read about the dangers of e-mail spam.

Just the other day, we at America’s Best received a seemingly legitimate e-mail in our inboxes claiming to be from the eBay Security and Resolution Center. In it, we were told that our billing information was out of date and could be updated through an attached link. In fact, the message was an e-mail scam in which the sender uses the information to access the unfortunate user’s funds. Luckily, the problem was caught early on, ?but the incident highlights the difficulties that ?occasionally arise while using e-mail.

E-mail’s extraordinary ease of use has created a downside: spam. Spam (which gets its name from a Monty Python skit) is a nickname for electronic junk mail. Since e-mail usually costs nothing to send, spammers have been able to circulate junk mail in volumes unheard of by the old mass mailers. While most spam e-mails are merely annoying, some—such as our fake eBay message—could cause trouble for naive users. Start canning your spam with our list of the most common e-mails scams polluting the Internet today.


THE NIGERIAN SCAM


The Spam: A spammer posing as a bank auditor from a foreign country (usually Nigeria) informs you that a wealthy businessman has recently died without leaving behind a will or next of kin. The fake auditor then invites you to claim the money by sending him your financial information. Eventually, he will ask you to wire a small sum of cash to cover the legal expenses, adding that you’ll receive the money afterwards.

The Scam: After receiving your personal information, the spammer will be hard at work wiping out your bank account, leaving you penniless and hopeless.

THE CURE-ALL PILL SCAM


The Spam: A supposed miracle drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is now being offered at a low price. Along with other severe illnesses, it’s guaranteed to cure?all types of cancer.

The Scam: Just as you were told as a child, “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” Unfortunately, even though this type of scam is thousands of years old, buyers are still fooled by these profiteers who prey on false hopes. Fortunately, this type of spam is the easiest to spot since you can usually identify it as junk mail?just from its subject line.

THE PHISHING SCAM


The Spam: The sender claims that a company (such as eBay, your bank, or even the IRS) needs to “update” your account information, password, or billing information. On occasion, they'll also say that you are due a refund.

The Scam: The sender uses the information to steal from your accounts. Although they can be hard to spot, phishing scams can sometimes be spotted by their lack of a personalized greeting. Our advice is to never give out your personal information via e-mail. Many companies clearly state that they will never ask for your password or billing information through e-mail. To keep yourself safe, always return to the original website to log into any account.

HOW TO STOP THE SPAM


Although we’ve identified the three most malicious spam scams circulating the Web right now, we’ve only scratched the surface. There are many other e-mail hoaxes that often pop up. These include a rumor that AOL and Microsoft have merged and that Bill Gates is willing to give you $1,000 for forwarding the e-mail. There’s also the age-old chain letter that requires you to forward the e-mail to a certain number of people or else you will have bad luck. Finally, there’s a spam scam that says a hitman is out to get you, but if you pay them a small fortune, they’ll call off the hit. Some of these are obvious scams (especially when they’re littered with spelling errors), but others can be deceiving.

For maximum safety, use a trusted free e-mail program (such as Gmail.com or Yahoo.com) that uses a built-in spam catcher. If you need to use a separate e-mail manager for your business, make sure that your provider has spam filters installed. You can also forward suspicious e-mail to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov, who will then pursue legal action against the spammers.

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