Spam Email Fraud: What It Is and How to Prevent It

| July 18, 2022

Introduction

Did you know that spam emails make up almost 70% of total email traffic? Scams and fraud make up 2.5% of all spam emails. That’s millions and millions of email-based fraud attempts being sent to people all around the world on a weekly basis. Email service providers try to protect users from this problem with a wall of filters and firewalls, but some of them still make their way through to end up in your inbox.

In fact, fraudulent emails are steadily increasing in volume, and it’s inevitable that some will break through. Luckily, the best way to beat them is to educate yourself on how to spot them.

But what’s the danger if most of these email fraud attempts are going straight to your spam folder? Well, you should try and prevent spam emails for the following reasons:

  • Spam fills up your inbox and makes it harder to find your legitimate emails
  • Spam can be cumbersome to delete
  • Spam can be used to spread computer viruses
  • Spam can be an attempt to steal personal/business information.

Types of fraudulent emails and how to spot them:

  • Scam emails: These present unrealistic offers and are the most common type of email fraud. Scam spam uses human psychology and engineered catchphrases to get the readers into believing something extraordinary can be attained with minimal effort.
  •  A few hallmark subject lines are “Once in a lifetime opportunity!” or “Earn $1,000 a day with a risk-free investment!” among others. One key thing about this type of scams are that they are finance-based, they promote non-existent ventures, fake job offers, lottery wins, or pyramid schemes. They, more often than not, will result in the victim paying money as “advance-fee” to enjoy the benefits of the bad scheme. A golden rule is that when an offer looks “too good to be true,” it most probably is.
  • Phishing emails: This one is when attackers send malicious emails or text messages designed to trick people into falling for a scam. Made up websites can also be made to deceive you. Spammers will disguise themselves as a legitimate organization intending to extract sensitive personal and financial data from their victims. Phishing uses social engineering techniques that require human interaction, identity theft, fraud, and advanced coding skills to extract your data. It works because most people don’t pay close attention to the little details or websites. Now you can even receive an email, or text, with a link to recover your bank account.
  • Spoofing emails: This type of email fraud is where identity theft is the most common. These typically come from, what looks like a legitimate email address, to trick the recipient into believing that the email is from a trusted source. Basically, the spammer will try to con you by disguising themselves as a sender you are familiar with (boss, coworker, friend etc.). Unfortunately, it is not a hard task to forge an email to look legitimate. The shortcoming of SMTP servers email relies on is that they make it possible for a spammer to disguise the original “from” address.
  • Business Email Compromise (BEC)—also called man-in-the-email scams—is one of the most prominent attacks that use spoofing techniques to devise fraudulent money or data theft. This is usually done by scrapping publicly available email addresses of prominent people in an organization’s websites. And to add more, spoofing coupled with phishing can result in disastrous financial loss for the victim. So, the next time your boss emails you out of the blue asking for login credentials or an immediate asset transfer, make sure you cross-check before doing so.

Something to note: the types of spam we’ve discussed here don’t have to be confined to emails. Nowadays, spam happens everywhere, from social media to personal calls and messages. 

Closing

While ignoring spam is one solution, it is not always the best. The presence of spam can be distracting and is a waste of time, storage space, and email efficiency.

Fortunately, there are ways to limit the spam you receive!

  • Never give out your email address in a public forum
  • Do not interact with spam emails
  • Know how email works
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi
  • Report spam emails to your IT provider if you have one

Following these tips can help you prevent spam emails and cyber-attacks. However, spammers can also break through your firewalls, so it is just as important to protect yourself before that happens. 

Some ways to protect against email fraud include not storinge passwords on your hard drive and instead using options like Last Pass Vault, and changing your passwords regularly. Don’t use keywords or phrases in all your passwords, use a good antivirus program, and keep your software updated.

Websites:

Think Twice: 5 tips to protect yourself from email spam – Zoho Blog

IGCSE ICT – Spam Emails (ictlounge.com)

5 Common E-mail Scams | Washington State

What’s On the Other Side of Your Inbox – 20 SPAM Statistics for 2022 (dataprot.net)

Email Spoofing – What it Is, How it Works & More | Proofpoint US

Learn more about how to spot and prevent email fraud before it can do any real damage to your business with our Vulnerability Management services. 

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