Beware: the email that empties your bank account
Imagine getting an email that tells you that you’ve won millions. And all you have to do, to get those millions transferred neatly into your bank account, is reply to the sender with some information. It seems so simple and it’s so irresistible.
But if you do reply, you’ll find your bank account emptied, rather than bursting with cash. Because these emails – called phishing emails or 419 scam emails – are scams, designed to get innocent people like you to hand over your bank details and personal information. And if you do, they’ll tell you to travel to a particular destination (at your own expense), to meet their representative and collect your prize.
But you’ll find no such representative there. And the crooks will have used your personal information to gain access to your bank account, and empty it out. Once they’ve got your money, you’ll never get it back.
Here’s how the crooks get away with it:
The emails “look” real: The fraudsters align themselves, illegally, to real lottery companies. They’ll even go so far as to use the companies’ logos in the email letterhead and sign-off. Failing that, they invent a very legitimate sounding business name (like Euro Winner Lotteries), and hope that the reader won’t get suspicious.
The emails “sound” real: The emails read like professional and credible notices. However, in many cases, there are small grammatical or spelling errors which may tip you off.
The contact details shared in the email look credible: You’re told to contact a Ms So-and-So, at some professional sounding office address. But in reality, this person is a cover for the criminal.
Here’s what you need to know about these scams, so that you never fall victim to them.
If you didn’t buy a lottery ticket, you can’t win the prize
Think about it: If you didn’t buy a lottery ticket, how would you be able to win the prize? And even if you did win, why would the company email you, rather than calling you in person? And what if you did buy a lottery ticket (you can buy them online these days)? Then read the small print on your ticket and follow the instructions shared there for prize collection. You’ll speak to someone who can verify whether or not your ticket was a winning one.
The email’s from someone you don’t know
Your parents warned you about strangers, when you were little. These strangers exist online too, and you should avoid them and their emails. Just because they’ve chosen to email you (rather than approach you on the street) doesn’t make them any less dangerous.
The email asks you to share a lot of personal information
Even when you do win a cash prize, the company awarding the prize isn’t going to ask you what your occupation or your home phone number is. But the crooks want this info – along with your ID number and also your bank account information – since it gives them direct access to your savings, as well as the ability to use your identity to commit fraud. NEVER share your personal information with anyone over email.
What to do when you get this email?
Firstly, make sure you never respond to the emails. Contact your local government; they usually have organisations set up to investigate these. You’ll have to send them the original email, and any other documents relating to the email. They’ll do what they can to investigate the matter.
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