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• Feb 8, 2024

Is there a prince in a faraway land that needs your help getting millions of dollars out of the country?

Are you a winner of a foreign lottery and you need to pay a fee to claim your monetary prize?

While the scenarios may seem different, the demands may be similar. For instance, a distant relative you've never heard of passes away and leaves you an inheritance. Someone reaches out and asks for help to transfer a large sum of money from one country to another or, suddenly, it's your lucky day and you've won a huge amount of money out of country.

Regardless of the scenario, often there is a call-to-action with a sense of urgency – a demand for sharing personal information in exchange for the inheritance or prize. In many cases, the use of threatening language may also occur if the recipient of the email does not action the email request immediately.

Sometimes the emails look legitimate, with familiar brand names and email addresses that appear almost official.

Maybe the email looks like it comes from your favorite streaming service, saying that your payment didn't go through, and you need to update your personal information. Maybe the email is designed to look like it came from a retailer informing you that you have an unused gift card balance. Or maybe the email is attempting to trick you into thinking it came from a package delivery service, and if you don't enter your personal information, they can't deliver it.

The problem is these are all examples of email scams and attempts at fraud.

Many email scams are forms of phishing, which is a tactic used by fraudsters to trick you into sharing your personal or financial information such as credit card or bank account numbers, passwords or your Social Security number.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) tracks the scams that are happening across the US and encourages people to report any suspected fraud to its Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, site. In 2022 alone, the IC3 received a total of 800,944 reported online fraud complaints, with losses exceeding $10.3 billion

Fraud experts say everyone is a target—from the elderly to busy professionals and even tech-savvy millennials— and if you receive an email (or even a text message or phone call) that sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

For instance, if you're being asked for unusual information such as personal details or bank account numbers, or to send money to people you don't know, it's usually a sign that something is amiss. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help protect yourself from email scams and fraud.

Get familiar with common red flags

When it comes to email scams, there are some common red flags to look out for to indicate an email may be suspicious.

Other red flags include an email that contains different font and font sizes, off brand logos and a subject line or overall messaging that appeals to urgency, fear, or desire, or offer something that is “too good to be true.”

Use caution when clicking links through email

Phishing often works like this: a scammer sends you an email, text, or voice message that appears to be from a legitimate company – for example, claiming that your online order is delayed, or that your bank has frozen your account – and tells you that you need to click a link and enter your personal information to "unlock" your account or access information about your order.

Providing personal information through phishing can lead to identity theft, which can result in a fraudster gaining full access to your banking information.

Avoid clicking on any email that is threatening to close your account or the immediate loss of an important service. If you receive an unsolicited email from a service provider that you normally deal with, it's always best for you to call that service provider directly and confirm whether the request is valid. Remember to look up the phone number or email of the service provider on its official website; do not trust a phone number or email address sent to you in an unsolicited email.

The reality is that when you get an unsolicited email (or text message and phone call) that makes a promise of something as a reward in exchange for your personal information, chances are it's a scam.

Be skeptical of requests asking for personal information or money

Email scams will often try and make false claims to get you to send money to fraudulent accounts. If you get an email from a relative asking for significant funds because they're in trouble overseas, and saying they need you to send them the money via e-transfer or gift card, this should also be a red flag. Chances are, if someone close to you was in trouble, you would have heard from them or someone you trust, such as a parent or partner. Always verify this information before acting on it.

And that tax collector threatening to have you arrested? This is a common tactic used by fraudsters. The key is to try and not act based on your emotions and to do a little research on the claim to verify it.

If you happen to receive an unexpected and too-good-to-be-true check, chances are it will be fraudulent. It's always important to know who you're doing business with. If you have any doubts, don't proceed with cashing the check.

Beware of the "-ing"

While email scams are one way for fraudsters to contact you in hope of obtaining and collection personal and financial information, it's important to be aware of some of the other common ways to scams as well.

Whether it's "phishing" (soliciting sensitive financial information via email or text messages), "spoofing" (delivering malware to your computer), "vishing" (using phone calls to solicit information through conversation), "quishing" (using fake QR codes to steal personal information or money), or even check fraud that can trick you into wiring or sending money after you receive a check – it's always important to be vigilant. In each of these scenarios, exercising caution before providing information or acting on a request is vital.

Talk with family and friends

The elderly and lonely people are often the most targeted in scams and the so-called "grandparent scam" is specifically designed to target seniors.

Help protect your family members by educating them on the most common scams, such as using legitimate dating websites to extort money from someone looking for a relationship, or emergency scams that target caring grandparents into sending money to their grandchild in a foreign country.

For more on personal finance topics

If you would like to learn more about how to protect yourself against fraud, visit TD Bank's Security Center.

If you have more questions about other personal finance topics that matter to you, visit the Learning Center on TD Bank’s website. You can find out more information about TD Bank's services at

We hope you found this helpful. This article is based on information available in December 2023 and is subject to change. It is provided as a convenience and for general information purposes only. Our content is not intended to provide legal, tax, investment, or financial advice or to indicate that a particular TD Bank or third-party product or service is available or right for you.

For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Links to third-party sites do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by TD Bank of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual. TD Bank bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Any third-party trademarks or service marks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content. See our website Terms of Use for more information.

Want to learn more about your money?
How to Help Friends and Family Members Avoid Online Fraud
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Keeping Our Communities SAFE: TD's Fraud Risk Team Educates Vulnerable Populations About Fraud

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