1. The “vanity” e-mails. These e-mails will target areas where most people have some type of insecurity, whether it’s weight or wrinkles. They will make statements such as “lose 30 pounds fast” or “banish laugh-lines forever.” They often address you by name to make you feel they know who you are. When you click on them, their slick ads make every promise under the sun, it seems… for a rather hefty price tag.
What you should watch for: claims that have no sound medical basis. Treatments that haven’t been evaluated by the FDA. And just because that ad for diet pills has a picture of Jessica Alba in it, that doesn’t mean she takes them, or even endorses them. This is a popular psychological trick called association, and marketing directors know people fall for it. Check with the Food and Drug Administration or the Better Business Bureau about the company and the product, and ask a doctor before you spend $79.99 on that “miracle” cream.
2. The “money, money, money” e-mails. There are lots of variations with these. Some will tell you how you can “legally erase your debt.” Others offer you a loan or financial aid for college. Or they will tempt you with a credit card or a “free” checking account that supposedly has lots of perks. As with the other types of scam e-mails, the offers at first seem too good to be true. That’s because they usually are.
What you should watch for: businesses that want you to pay a large upfront fee to “erase” your debt. A legitimate credit counseling business won’t do that. These “banks” that you’re never heard of will ask for all your personal information… so they can commit identify theft. And while you might qualify for financial aid for college, you need to work directly with a financial aid counselor for the college you’re thinking about attending. Not someone on the internet. Sometimes these e-mails try and loan you money: other times they try to steer you towards a few very specific online universities. Bottom line: if you check around and can’t verify that it’s a legitimate company, never give them any of your personal information (Social Security Number, address, date of birth) to “fill out this simple form.”
3. The “we like you, here’s a free gift!” e-mails. From airline tickets to Playstation 3’s to flat screen TV’s, these messages come across as though you had won the sweepstakes of a lifetime: a sweepstakes that you never entered. Or they tell you there’s a “problem” with shipping your free $1,000 gift card, and would you be so kind as to click on their link and provide your mailing address. Odd how they want your address but don’t even tell you who they are, isn’t it?
What you should watch for: an e-mail where the recipient is not clearly identified, and isn’t a name or company you recognize. Anyone who tries to solicit personal information from you online without any prior requests or contest entries from you. The shtick here is that they get your address and send you something that you have to pay a fee for when it arrives, and it’s usually junk. You try to send it back and get your money back, and that’s either extremely hard or impossible. They can also use your personal information to commit identity theft. If you give them what they want, your “free gift” will turn out to be a headache.
4. The “you’re been looking for love in all the wrong places” e-mails. Someone has a crush on you? An invite from a local single? A secret admirer or information about imaQT? These lure you in by flattery, mystery and the basic desire for love. The e-mails offer excitement, dating, and a seemingly unlimited number of attractive singles who can’t wait to meet you. Which would be great… if these singles A: really existed and B: knew who you were.
What you should watch for: if you read these e-mails, the messages from the “singles” are vague, not gender specific, and want you to click on-you guessed it-a hyperlink. That link takes you not to your soulmate, but a dating website. The site either wants a fee for you to join, or they want to sell your info to their “associates” who will promptly flood your inbox with spam. Worse, these e-mails can be lures to get you to an online pornography website, where you pay $4.99 a minute to watch and have nothing to do with dating. There are a number of legitimate online dating websites. But they don’t send out fake e-mails with fake photos to try and lure you in. Real businesses don’t hound you for credit card numbers or any other private data, or tell you that “blondebombshell23” can’t wait to meet you when she isn’t real.
The bottom line with any unsolicited e-mail you get is, ask yourself a few simple questions. Did you ask for this information? Do you know who it’s really from? Does it actually apply to you? Is it too good to be true? Do they want your address, Social Security Number and date of birth? Do they want you to pay a “small handling fee” or membership fee? If the only answers you come up with are the wrong answers, don’t give them anything. Get out of the e-mail and delete it or mark it as “spam” and then delete it.