American Bank - Education Center
Email fraud uses email messages to trick victims into sending financial
information or money to criminals, often in other countries. Among
the most common forms of email fraud is the "Nigerian Letter" or "419"
fraud, in which the victim receives an email informing them that they
have an opportunity to share in a percentage of millions of dollars if
the victim helps the criminal transfer money from Nigeria into a United
States bank account. The email may also attempt to look like it is from
a company with which you do business in order to trick you into sharing
your personal information.
When internet fraudsters impersonate a business to trick you into giving
out your personal information, it is called phishing. Do not reply to
email, text, or pop-up messages that ask for your personal or financial
information. Do not click on links within them either – even if the
message seems to be from an organization you trust. It is not.
Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information
through insecure channels.
Examples of Phishing Messages
You open an email or text, and see a message like this:
"We suspect an unauthorized
transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not
compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity."
"During our regular verification of
accounts, we couldn't verify your information. Please click here to
update and verify your information."
“Our records indicate that your
account was overcharged. You must call us within 7 days to receive
The senders are phishing for your information so they can use it to
How to Deal with Phishing Scams
Delete email and text messages that
ask you to confirm or provide personal information (credit card and
bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, etc.).
Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via email or
The messages may appear to be from
organizations you do business with – banks, for example. They might
threaten to close your account or take other action if you don’t
Don’t reply, and don’t click on links
or call phone numbers provided in the message, either. These
messages direct you to spoof sites – sites that look real but whose
purpose is to steal your information so a scammer can run up bills
or commit crimes in your name.
Area codes can mislead, too. Some
scammers ask you to call a phone number to update your account or
access a "refund". But a local area code doesn’t guarantee
that the caller is local.
If you’re concerned about your account
or need to reach an organization you do business with, call the
number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit
You can take steps to avoid a phishing attack:
Report Phishing Emails
Forward phishing emails to firstname.lastname@example.org – and to the company, bank, or
organization impersonated in the email. You may also report phishing
email to email@example.com. The Anti-Phishing Working
Group, a group of ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law
enforcement agencies, uses these reports to fight phishing.
If you might have been tricked by a phishing email:
File a report with the Federal Trade
Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
Visit the FTC’s Identity Theft
website. Victims of phishing could become victims of identity theft;
there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.
The “Nigerian” Email Scam
So-called “Nigerian” email scams are characterized by convincing sob
stories, unfailingly polite language, and promises of a big payoff.
These messages have been circulating for so long that they have become
material for late night jokes, but people still respond to them. The
people behind these messages claim to be officials, business people, or
the surviving spouses of former government leaders in Nigeria or another
country whose money is tied up temporarily. They offer to transfer lots
of money into your bank account if you will pay the fees or "taxes" they
need to get their money. If you respond to the initial offer, you may
receive documents that look official. They may even encourage you
to travel to the country in question, or a neighboring country, to
complete the transaction. Some fraudsters have produced trunks of
dyed or stamped money to try to verify their claims.
The emails are from crooks trying to steal your money or your identity.
Inevitably, emergencies come up, requiring more of your money and
delaying the "transfer" of funds to your account. In the end, there
aren't any profits for you, and your money is gone along with the thief
who stole it. According to State Department reports, people who have
responded to these emails have been beaten, subjected to threats and
extortion, and in some cases murdered.
What You Can Do:
These emails can really tug at your heartstrings and appeal to your
sense of altruism. Successful scam artists know exactly how to get you
to give up your money. If you get an email asking you to send money to
help out a stranger, delete it. Someone is up to no good, and trying to
manipulate your emotions. They will tell you whatever you want to hear.
They will tell you whatever they feel you will believe. They will
pretend to be lawyers, claims agents, bankers, law enforcement agents,
people of high rank in the government, gaming officials, tax collectors,
and any other title that will convince you they are good people.
If you are a victim of one of these schemes:
Do not communicate with the scammers.
Do not reply to them again. Do not attempt to debate or
negotiate with them. You will not get your money back from
Contact your bank to see if payment
can be stopped.
Contact your credit card company to
reverse any fraudulent charges.
File a police report. Obtain a
copy of the police report for your records.
Contact your state attorney general to
alert them to the scam or fraud activity.
File a complaint with the Federal
This site is for educational purposes
and is not intended to provide legal advice. For specific advice
about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified
professional. Credits: Federal Trade Commission; Federal Bureau of
Investigation; Homeland Security; National Cyber Security Alliance.