E-Mail Scams

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Is your inbox filled with unsolicited e-mail?

Some messages are probably harmless, such as the endless jokes that bounce around cyberspace. But others can be malicious. For instance, a message may try to promote fear by describing a scary scenario, like the one about disguised carjackers waving money at you in Wal-Mart’s parking lot. Or a junk e-mail might tell you to be on the alert for a worm that could wipe out your hard drive—and actually contain the worm.

And spam, or unsolicited commercial e-mail, can have serious financial consequences.

For example, you might get phished, which is when a con artist sends you an e-mail from what appears to be a reputable site asking for personal info. If you reply, the result can be credit card fraud or identity theft.

Or you could be crammed. That’s the word for what happens when you respond to an e-mail asking you to call a certain phone number. Once you’re connected, the crook will try to add products or services to your phone bill.

Because e-mail has become a popular way to promote false information and conduct scams, web sites such as Snopes.com (http://www.snopes.com/), which let you check out what’s real and what’s not, have been created to combat the problem. If you think you’ve been scammed or you just want to reduce the inflow of junk mail, OnGuardOnline.gov (http://www.onguardonline.gov/default.aspx) can help. You can also report deceptive e-mail by forwarding it to spam@uce.gov.

Of course, nothing replaces old-fashioned vigilance. That’s especially true in a new-fashioned world, where scams are only a mouse click away.

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