If you are receiving death threats or believe yourself or your children to be in immediate physical danger, please dial 911 immediately. While we will be happy to help you or law enforcement officials trace messages you've received online, we cannot be there physically to protect you and we cannot guarantee an immediate response to your request for help.
If you have received an email claiming you've won a lottery, your account is going to be suspended, someone in Nigeria needs your help to transfer money or something similar, please DO NOT fill out the questionnaire asking us for help. Instead, please read the information below and follow the instructions there.
Spams and Scams
There are many variations of Spam and online scams, but if you become familiar with the basic idea of what they look like and what they're asking for, you can avoid all of them.
Someone in a third world country (Nigeria was the first listed in this scam) needs your help to a very large sum of money (usually in the millions) out of their country and promises you a big percentage of the money if you'll help. They usually say they want to "borrow" your bank account to transfer the money.
The only thing that will happen if you give this information to the person requesting is your bank account will be drained of any money in it. You may also be asked to send money to help fund the transfer.
Don't try to be clever and give these scammers a real account that has no money in it. They may use the account for illegal purposes, and because it's registered in your name, you may find yourself in a lot of trouble. Just erase the email request.
Ebay account suspension:http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/phishing/ebay.asp
An email with the ebay logo, and ebay return address, and formatted to look identical to an ebay login page shows up in your email box. It claims that there's something wrong with your ebay account and they want you to fill in the boxes in the email with your personal information (login, password, name, credit card #, etc), or click on the link they provide and fill in the information. The link brings you to a login page that looks identical to the Ebay pages. (This could also show up for Paypal or any other popular retail type website).
These are fake emails and fake websites, designed to fool you into giving important information. You should never fill in personal information into an email or a website that you got from a link in the email, no matter how real it looks. You will likely find your account broken into and your information stolen. If you think it might be a legitimate warning, go to the website by manually typing it into your browser and then logging in.
Paypal security maintenance:http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/paypal.asp
An email with the Paypal logo, a Paypal return address, and formatted to look like an official Paypal email shows up in your email box. It claims that it needs you to fill in your login and password, as well your bank account and credit card numbers in order to perform maintenance of their security measures. (This could also show up for Ebay or any other popular retail type website).
Filling in this information and submitting it is a guaranteed way to have your Paypal account stolen, along with your bank and credit card information. Never ever give someone financial information unless you know the website that is requesting it is legitimate, ie, go the website itself and fill it in. Don't put this information into an email or into a website you arrived at after clicking a link in a warning email.
Bank information request:http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/phishing/usbank2.asp
An email with a bank logo and information that your bank account may have been compromised. There are boxes to fill in your card number and PIN number.
Like the Ebay scam, this is another attempt to steal your financial information. You may get emails such as this for banks that you've never had accounts at or even heard of!
An email asks you to pass it on. It can come with a pretty poem or saying. It might threaten you with bad luck. It might tell you that something funny will pop up on your screen. Some emails will have a warning about a danger, such as a virus or gang attack. Sometimes they'll tell you how many people to send it to, or give you a certain amount of time to pass it on. Some of these letters will even ask you to send money to some people on the list, the put your name into the list and send it out.
All of these are nothing more than words on the screen. You will not have good or bad luck, nor will you get something pop up on your screen. The email is not being tracked by Microsoft. The only thing chain letters do is create more junk mail, which in turn causes more email traffic on Internet servers and costs them money. Chain letters that ask you to send money to people are called pyramid schemes and they're also illegal. Emails that have warnings about real life dangers, such as ways that gangs are using to abduct women, can also be considered illegal (under the charge "Inciting panic").
If you receive an email that tells you to send it to everyone in your address book, throw it away. If you think the poem is pretty and want to send it on to someone, copy and paste it into an email, leaving out the instructions to send it to everyone. If you think the warning might be real, look it up on Snopes first, and then decide if you want to pass it along.
An email tells you that you have won a very large sum of money in a lotto that you're not even sure you entered. The email contains the name of the lotto, ticket numbers, reference numbers, and contact information, all of which leads to its credibility. You are required to get in touch using the contact information in order to claim your prize.
Attempting to collect the prize results in delays and excuses as to why your "prize" money can't be turned over to you right away. And ultimately, there will be requests for payment from you to cover the charges of handling the prize money. After sending money to the lotto company, you will never hear from them again, nor will you receive your prize. It is all a fake, designed to get payments out of people in promise of a large win, which doesn't exist.
The best protection against spams and scams is to have a healthy dose of disbelief. If someone is trying to give you something for free, or if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Read up on more spams and scams here, in order to best protect yourself: http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/inboxer.asp
So . . . if the messages you're receiving don't seem like spam, please go to our article on Responding to Online Harassment. If you are being spammed, though, here are some additional resources to help you:
- Spamcop - help in tracking and reporting spam and FAQs with lots of general information.
- Forum for Responsible and Ethical Email
- Abuse.net's Boycott Internet Spam! is a good place for learning more about why people hate junk email so much.
- The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email is taking a political approach to fighting spam, trying to get legislation to outlaw it.
- Junkbuster gets into much more than spam on the net, adding junk postal mail, telemarketing, and so on.
- JunkEmail.Org is a new site from the Center for Democracy and Technology and Voters Telecommunication Watch.
- Spam-L is not a site about fighting spam, but about a mailing list on the subject. There are links to many good sites as well, though.
- SenderBase.Org is the world's leading email traffic monitoring network, designed to help email administrators research senders, identify legitimate sources of email and stop threats such as spam and viruses. (Thanks to greynomad.)
Other pages to review: