Frequently Asked Questions
I have given some personal information--what should I do?
If you have given any personal information to fraudsters, in either a lottery scam, Nigerian 419 scam, or if you have responded to a phishing email, you may be at risk of identity theft. At the minimum, you should check your credit report to check for any unauthorized transactions, and place a fraud alert on your credit file.
I have received an email claiming I have won the lottery--how do I know if it is real?
It is easy to get excited when you receive an email claiming you have won a lot of money. Try to keep your head and answer some basic questions:
Did you enter a lottery?
If you did not enter a lottery, then you cannot win a lottery. Most lottery scams will claim that you did not have to enter the lottery and your email address was picked randomly, but logic says we need to enter a game to win the prize.
Was the email addressed to you personally?
Fraudulent lottery emails are sent via bulk mail, meaning that you are not the only person to receive the email. Normally, this is done via the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field, so you cannot see who the email has been sent to. The email will not be addressed to you, and more importantly, the body of the email will not be addressed to you by name.
Did the email come from a free email address, such as Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.?
Most fraudulent lottery emails are sent from free email accounts, or the people you need to contact are using free email accounts. Would a professional lottery company be using a free account? No. Lately, some fraudulent lotteries have set up their own fake web sites, and have emails at their domain to appear to be genuine. Although it does not indicate the lottery is genuine if they have a professional-looking email address, it is a red flag when they are using a free email address.
Have you been asked to provide personal information?
Fraudulent lotteries will ask for personal information about you. This information could be used in an identity theft scheme by the fraudsters, or your information may be sold to identity theft crime rings. If you have provided any personal information, you may be at risk of identity theft. You should immediately check and monitor your credit report.
Have you been asked to make a payment, for any reason, before you can receive your winnings?
Any lottery that asks for any kind of payment before your winnings can be released to you is both illegal and fraudulent. Reasons money may be fraudulently requested include insurance, taxes, legal fees, anti-money-laundering certificates, antiterrorism certificates, and many other creative explanations. Remember, a legitimate lottery would not ask you to make payment of any description before you can have your money. Taxes are your responsibility to pay after, not the lottery company's.
I have received a mail delivery failure about an email I didn't send. What should I do?
Your first reaction should be to delete the email, and at the very least, ignore it..
If you did not send an email but have received a mail delivery failure about this email, it may have been sent by a virus. Viruses are programmed to spread themselves to as many email addresses as possible. They will automatically forge an email address they have gathered from various sources, and send an email apparently from your email. This can occur simply from your address being in a friends contact list.
This could also indicate that your computer is infected by a virus or spyware. We recommend that you scan your computer for viruses and spyware.
Such error messages can also be faked in order to trick you into resending the email.
How can I stop receiving fraudulent email spam?
Some studies have shown around 85% of all email sent is spam, with a majority fraudulent. This can be costly and time consuming to end users who receive them. Effective spam filters can reduce the number of fraudulent and malicious emails consumers are exposed to.
Many spam emails provide a link you can click to be removed from the sender's list. Do not click on such links. This is just another way of confirming a working email address.
Can I take my email address off of a fraudster's mailing list?
Fraudsters have many ways of scanning the Internet and people's address books for email addresses. It is impossible to remove your email address from a fraudster's mailing list. If you respond to the email asking them to stop emailing you, all you have done is let them know that your email address is working.
Lists of live email addresses receive a higher price for people to sell mailing lists. You will receive more fraudulent and spam email if they know you have a live email address. You should delete the email without replying.
I replied to a fraudulent email--what now?
If you respond to the email asking them to stop emailing you or asking for further information, all you have done is let them know that your email address is live. Lists of live email addresses receive a higher price for people to sell mailing lists. You will receive more fraudulent and spam email if they know you have a live email address. You should delete the email without replying.
How can I protect myself from fraudulent emails?
A combination of education and security tools is key to protecting yourself and your family from phishing scams. See Phishing for more information.
I clicked on a phishing email link--what should I do?
If you have clicked on a phishing email link, you may have downloaded a virus or spyware. This malicious software can search your computer for sensitive personal information and pass it to fraudsters. Make sure you scan your computer for viruses and spyware. If you are worried that a malicious program is contacting a remote computer, disconnect your Internet while performing the scans.