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Spotting Fraudulent Emails

Check this guide to make sure that you don't fall victim to email fraud.

This guide will help you understand some of the ways that criminals use to deceive people who receive their emails. Once you know what to look for it's not too difficult to spot a bogus email, even when it looks quite genuine. Just follow three simple rules when you see an email that may be part of a scam: Stop, Look, and Ask.

Most fraud schemes start with a statement that will cause panic or excitement. The fraudster wants you to act on impulse, without thinking about what you are doing. So if you receive an email that demands that you act right away - don't!

Request for you to update your username and password, or provide updated credit card details. Along with a warning that you will lose your account or that someone else may be using your account.

Always look closely at the claims made in an email, think about whether those claims are consistent with the sender. Are they suspicious? Treat any email with suspicion that asks for confidential information that you would expect the sender to have.

It wouldn't make sense for a financial institution to send you an email asking you to provide all your account details, they would already have these on record and are not likely to send you an email if they were to lose them.

If you receive an email telling you that you have won a prize, but only if you provide some personal or financial details, this is almost certainly a scam. Legitimate companies that want to give you a prize do not ask for confidential details in this way. There are a number of telltale signs. There may be exceptions, when a legitimate email shows these signs, but you should view them with suspicion:

  • Sender's email address
    The 'from' field in an email is very easy to forge, it should never be accepted without question.

  • Email greeting
    Emails about your account information will address you by name. Emails that ask for personal details when they address you as "dear customer" are suspicious. (Scam emails are also a form of spam. The same email is sent to thousands of people.)

  • Links in an email
    Be very cautious of links in emails. It's possible to forge links so don't assume they are genuine. If in doubt, visit the website by typing in the address yourself. One way to check if a link is genuine is to view the source code of the email to see if the link in the source is the same as the one you see on the email. If you look for the link address, you might see something like this:

    example scam link

    The above example is the code for a link. There are two addresses in the link:

    The first - this follows the 'a href=' is the real address.
    The second - this is just a label which could say anything. The fact that the label looks like an Internet address is the sign of a possible deception.

    Remember, links might look like they take you to the right place, but unless you check, you can't be sure.

  • Fake websites
    These will usually have an address that doesn't look quite right. Sometimes they contain an IP address such as "@" that indicates that the address is actually diverting to a computer system other than the one the address is actually pointing to. Not a guarantee that the email is false, but
    is very suspicious!

  • Pop-up windows
    Be careful with pop-up windows that don't show you an address bar. For those windows, try clicking F11 or right-click in a clear of text area of the window (not over embedded graphics which might be called from a real site) and choose 'Properties'. From there, look at the address (URL) listing for the real http address shown.

If you're not sure an email is genuine, contact the sender to confirm. If you receive an email from us that relates to your account details there should be a record of it in your 'Contact us' tickets. All you need to do is log in to the Member Centre and view your tickets. If you receive an email from your bank or another online company that you use, which looks like it might be false, give the company a call before responding with any personal information.

What should you do if you receive a fraudulent email?
Only report fraud emails to our Abuse Master if the email originated from one of our customers. You would need to view the header information of the email to confirm this. If you need help with viewing and understanding email headers, you can read our guide to reporting spam emails.

You now know what to look for, and that alone will make your Internet shopping and banking much safer.

Just remember:

  • Don't respond to emails in haste, or from unknown sources.
  • Don't trust emails that ask for personal information without checking them out first.
  • It's always safer to type in an address manually than follow a link in an email.
  • It's also good practice to change your passwords every-so-often, use different passwords for different accounts.

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