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Detecting an Email Scam

You’ve seen them.  A text with a link and a warning to login to change private information.  The phone call that attempts to put you into a panic mode to give out important information.  Then there are emails from someone you don’t recognize but promising financial gain by follow their instructions. 

Clearly there are many variants of scams.  There is one that can catch people off-guard involving an email from someone you do know asking a favor.  The conversation may start by inquiring about you and use the subject line, “Checking In”.  Sounds safe.  Unfortunately it may not be.  Once you respond you have acknowledged your email address is active and they will proceed with their scam.  One example is where the scammer claimed to order from Apple but were unsuccessful.  Their excuse is to be traveling and can’t make the purchase.  It’s time critical because they want to help a grandchild, niece or nephew requiring it be done today.  The ask for help becomes, please go to a store and buy a gift card.  Then take a picture of it and send it to me with a promise to reimburse for the costs.

At first it might seem like the right thing to do. But be wise and think it through watching for red flags.  Is this a normal request from your friend?  Do you know them well enough to loan them money?  Would this person normally contact you using this method, a text as opposed to sending email. This may be a sign something’s not right.  People can get their email accounts hacked giving scammers access to their contact list including your address.  Did the amount requested seem a bit extravagant for that person?  Would a $400 for a gift be a normal amount for the requestor? Supposedly your friend is having technical issues buying the product but has the knowledge to have you do it and the knowledge to pass it along.  When you ask questions for clarifications are they not answered clearly? Before taking action, scrutinize the situation as something might be wrong with the scenario.  

It comes down to common sense.  The best thing to do is to call your friend and ask them if they sent the email.  They may not even know they have been hacked and you will have done them a favor.

Ted Saul is a business coach and writer that assists with Business Plans, Project Management and Career Management. He earned his MBA from Regis University along with a Masters in project management.  Ted can be reached on LinkedIn or by emailing

Written by Ted Saul, Sr. Staff Writer

Ted Saul is a business coach that assists with Business Plans and Project Management. He holds a master certificate in project management and has earned his MBA from Regis University. Ted can be reached on LinkedIn, TedS787 on Twitter or emailing

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