Technicool: Internet Scams

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It's estimated that six billion e-mail messages are sent worldwide everyday. Some are legitimate. A lot aren't. It's what's known as spam. That spam can cost you a lot of money if you're not careful. Here are some Internet scams and myths to look out for and what you can do to protect yourself.

One of the most common scams is the Nigerian Letter. You get an e-mail saying someone's relative in Nigeria has died and they need your help to transfer money overseas. They mention this "urgent matter" requires secrecy. Then they ask for your phone and fax number and a bank account. This scam started back in the 1980s through regular mail. Don't believe anything they say. It's all lies. There is no great amount of money waiting for you in Nigeria. Just delete this e-mail.

Another common scam that comes through your e-mail is one offering a business opportunity. They'll say you can make hundreds or thousands of dollars a day by doing very little. They'll tell you to call a phone number and leave a message or send an e-mail to have a sales person call you. This "business opportunity" is usually nothing more than a pyramid scheme masquerading as a business to try and make money off of you. Just delete this e-mail.

The most vicious type of scam is known as phishing. You get an e-mail supposedly from a legitimate business like PayPal. It says there's been a security breach or there's a question about your account. They then ask you to verify your account information by sending in your account number or personal identification number, or in some instances, both. They'll also ask you for your credit card info as well as other private personal information. The e-mail looks genuine, but that's about the only genuine thing about it. Legitimate businesses don't contact you about personal account info by e-mail. They do that through the regular mail.

If you have any questions about the legitimacy of an e-mail from a company, call the company directly. That phone call could save you thousands of dollars and years of headaches, so what can you do?

First of all, be cautious. As a rule of thumb when you're dealing with e-mail, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you think you've been the victim of phishing, call your local police. Also, keep an eye on your credit report by getting a credit report at least once a year.

For more information on phishing, log on to:

For examples of what to look for in a phishing e-mail, go to” There you'll find a complete list of common phishing scams, many of which involve large national companies.

Here' are a couple of good websites on lnternet scams:

Next week on Technicool, we'll show you how to setup your e-mail inbox so legitimate e-mail goes into one folder and spam goes directly to your trash.