6 signs a 'YOU'VE WON!' email is a fake
Did you really win an iPad, or is the message from a scammer trying to steal your identity?
This post comes from Linsey Knerl at partner blog Wise Bread.
I've written about my hobby of entering sweepstakes before, and like any worthwhile endeavor, there is always a downside. One of these, unfortunately, is the massive amounts of new email you will receive as you sign up for newsletters and give out your contact info for prize notification.
While fake prize emails can be sent to anyone, those who enter giveaways seem to be even more prone to receiving them. And while most of my newly sweeping friends have a bit of a learning curve in identifying the fakes from the real thing, they eventually master these six red flags that something isn't right. (See also: "Sweeping 101.")
You don't remember entering. Even with the thousands upon thousands of sweepstakes I've entered over the past 14 years, I have a mild recollection of most of them. If I were to receive an email saying that I won dinners for a year from a local eatery, it would ring a bell, and I'd likely get excited. If some random company tells me that I won a questionable amount of cash in a promotion I don't remember, however, I would take a minute to examine it more carefully.
Not sure if you entered or not? Do a search for the promotion name, company and prize to see what you find. Most likely, if it is a legit sweep, it was listed on several sites that prize winners frequent.
The company is huge. While companies Pepsi, Yahoo and Google do hold many giveaways, they rarely handle their own correspondence. If you get an email from Yahoo itself claiming to have picked your name to get a free iPad, for example, see:
- If you remember entering.
- If the email is signed by a fulfillment company. If the email is signed by a PR company, it's more likely real than if it's signed by Yahoo's CEO.
Again, you can do an online search to get the info for the company that is handling prize fulfillment for the sweepstakes you are wondering about. Major sweepstakes are most often run by companies whose sole function is to manage sweepstakes.
The word "lotto" is used. Seriously, do you even play the lottery? If you get an email from a foreign country with the happy announcement that you've won a "lotto" prize, it's not legit. Lotteries take money to play and, as far as I know, they never notify people via an ambiguous email. Other sneaky terms to beware of include "grant award" and any mention of an international fund. Post continues below.
The email went out to everyone. Check the "to" field in your email. Do you find your email alongside a dozen or more other email addresses within the same alphabetical range as yours? Bad news: You're on a spam email list. Someone is sending this same email out to thousands of unsuspecting email account holders hoping someone will bite. Delete this one without question.
Whatever you do, do not reply or attempt to unsubscribe from any email that has dozens of addresses. This will only confirm to the spammer that the email is valid, encouraging them to send even more junk your way. (See also: "Eliminate junk mail with the click of a button.")
Hyperlinks are fishy. Most fake emails trying to access your info (also known as phishing emails) will try to get you to either click on a link within the body of the email, or reply to a particular email. The destination, at first glance, may seem legit ("Please check out xyz company to get your prize!"). By placing your mouse over the hyperlink and not clicking on it, however, you can see where the link is directed to go. If this is anything but the address in the email, run! These are clever ruses designed to get you to sites you would never visit. Don't do them the honor.
Do a quick link check of all URLs in the body and at the bottom of the email. PayPal scams, for example, often look a lot like an official PayPal email, but the hyperlinks within the text all direct to scam sites designed to get your sensitive information.
You were asked to send money. This one is quick and easy to master. Don't pay shipping fees, processing fees, or award fees for your prize. A prize is a prize, after all, not something you ordered.
Beware of anyone claiming that you have to pay taxes upfront for any prize. The IRS handles income tax, and your local treasurer handles motor vehicle and boat taxes. Let them do their jobs, and leave the scammers wishing you weren't so smart.
More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:
And we really need to have a news story like this, I mean come on - REALLY ? I guess there actually are people out there gullible enough to believe they are the only person on the face of the earth - and their name was selected from . . . - WHERE ???
AWWW crap!!! I forgot - I know people like this.
I just received an e-mail today that reads this: "Ticket Number: 25515600DS
You email address have won A car and £750,000. For more information, contact Mr. David Hill"
Oh wow! I won a BMW car and cash money! That would be a waste of time going there after finding out that there's no car and cash there waiting for me in Great Britain. DRATS! I might get kidnapped instead or could I be in a slammer with Benny Hill???
You are the lucky ones. I received a kind letter from Nigeria that I had died and left a large sum of money. That was both good news and bad news. Or maybe it was the other way around. But, I was neither dead nor rich and I kept this letter and framed it. After all, how
many people get their own "dead man walking" spam.
And the number one sign that you won, or lottery, or inheritance email is a fake.........
*extended drum roll*
You received the friggen thing in the first place...
Do people really need these cues to recognize phishing emails? I mean, c'mon! If it went straight to your junk folder, odds are it is phish!
I have $59 Million US but I need to get it out of the country. Send me your banking information so I can transfer funds to your account,
signed: U Ben Took
Watch out for these rip offs.
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