Texas Tech University

Common Email Scams

Internet criminals continue to find email to be an affordable and easy means of deceiving consumers and profiting from those email scams. As long as people continue to respond and provide information, the scams will continue to increase.

Examples of common email scams:

  • Requests for donations to charitable organizations - These scams appear during a current national or international crisis. The message may request that you donate online, by providing your personal banking information or credit card information
  • Requests for financial information - These appear to be from a reputable bank, mortgage brokerage, or financial consulting firm. The message will request your personal banking information for the use of verifying your account or confirming a transaction
  • Promises of financial gain - Claims such as “Make money in your spare time,” “Earn thousands per week!” or “Guaranteed income” are almost always sure signs of a scam. The sender usually requests that you make a small investment with your credit card in order to “earn your fortune”
  • High pressure tactics - For example, “Sign up now or the price will increase.” Again, a legitimate deal with such a restricted time line will probably not be conducted over email
  • Prize notifications - Countless scams require that you pay a small fee to claim your prize. The fee is often allegedly for transaction costs, shipping, handling, or pre-award taxes
  • “FREE” goods, services, and opportunities - Offering free items is used to lure you into additional purchases, such as other products and fees associated with the “free” items
  • Internet auctions that require pre-payment - In a world comfortable with online stock trading and eBay purchasing, illegitimate Internet auctions have become a popular venue for criminals
  • Requests to be added to your “friends” list - Criminals pose as new contacts on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media sites by requesting that they be added to your “friends” list

Clues to help you recognize a phishing scam

  • Requests for your username and/or password – credible institutions and organizations will not request personal information via email
  • Time sensitive threats (e.g., your account will be closed if you do not respond immediately)
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Vague or missing information in the “from” field or email signature
  • “To” field contains multiple random email address or is alphabetized
  • Impersonal or awkward greetings, such as “Dear Mr. account holder”
  • Unexpected files or downloads
  • Links that don't refer to the sender or sender's organization
  • Emails about accounts that you don't have, such as eBay or PayPal, or banks that you don't have accounts with
  • Emails “from” celebrities
  • Asks you to reply in order to “opt out” of a service or
  • Plays on human emotions to evoke sympathy, kindness, fear, worry, anxiety, or excitement