4 December 2018
4 Common Email Scams (& How to Avoid Them)

If you have an email address, you would have likely, at some point, received emails from questionable sources which you can almost immediately tell that they are scams.

Email scams have been around since the rise of the Internet. Back in the day, email scams were easier to pull off due to low awareness and understanding of the technology which made it attractive to scammers. They traditionally involve tricking the victim to send money to them via wire transfers, PayPal or Western Union, etc.

With the rise of digital currencies as a new method of payment, some criminals have chosen to target users and business whom they think own digital currencies. Here are four examples of common email scams and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

The ‘Nigerian Prince’

How it works:

Also known as the ‘419’ scam or the advance-fee scam, it’s one of the oldest internet scams (that almost has a comical air around it due to the nature of the scammers claiming to be of royal descent). They offer promises of lucrative sums of money in return for a relatively small payment to help them with an on-going ‘issue’. Once you send them the funds, the scammer takes off, leaving you financially devastated.

These scammers typically ask for funds to be transferred via wire transfer, PayPal, or Western Union. But as the popularity of digital currencies rises, a small group of scammers has begun to demand funds via this new form of payment.

How to prevent it:

As the age-old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never wire money overseas or send your bitcoin to someone you don’t know who claims that you will receive massive wealth or rewards in return. Sometimes, greed does take over logical thinking, so if you still are unsure, please seek advice from a family member or friend before making such decisions.

The Fake Threat

How it works:

Threats are a grave matter and should be taken seriously if you have reason to believe the danger is imposed onto you or your loved ones. However, in the online world, almost all of email and phone call threats are fake.

Common threats include – intention to induce personal injury, kidnapping ransoms, threats involving explosives, calls from people claiming to be law enforcement agents, etc. The scammer will usually demand a ransom or a payment to be wired to them. After the ‘ransom’ is paid, the user heaves a sigh of relief thinking that the threat has gone away. However, the catch is these threats might not have even existed in the first place.

How to prevent it:

If you have been threatened, get in touch with the police immediately. Providing as much information and details as possible to the police, such as the recipient bank account details, or digital currency address in the email will be helpful to the investigators.

Also, in most countries like Australia, banks or any government agencies will never call or contact a customer directly to demand payment.

Phishing Emails

How it works:

A phishing email is when a professionally crafted message is sent out from an email address that highly resembles that of a reputable company. These messages typically direct you to click on an unsuspecting button, image, or website link that contains malicious viruses and keyloggers that will infect your computer or mobile devices.

How to prevent it:

Always double-check the sender’s email address before clicking on any buttons or link embedded in the email. Scammers usually jumble and play around with letters or characters within their email addresses to make it appear correct at first glance. If you are unsure or find something suspicious about the email, contact the company directly to verify the authenticity of the email you have received.

For more information on how to prevent yourself from becoming a victim, read https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/attempts-to-gain-your-personal-information/phishing

The Investment Scam

How it works:

Each year, plenty of victims fall into the hands of scammers who promise all forms of ‘get-rich-quick’ investment schemes. As digital currencies emerge as a new form of investment, criminals are beginning to target people that are new or are considering to enter the space.

Victims will receive an email with an ‘exclusive invitation’ to invest in a financial product with irresistible high returns. Some common scams involve getting the victims to purchase cryptocurrency ‘mining contracts’, invest in a ‘private cryptocurrency fund’, or offering trading services where victims could purchase digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin at a significantly lower exchange rate or discount.

Most of these scams are crafted to look legitimate to target victims who are new to the world of digital currencies. Some even go through the effort to set up professional looking websites, organising meetups, advertising online, and even having physical ‘offices’ to target a wider audience.

Shortly after the payment for the investment is made, the website shuts down and the company disappears alongside with the money that the victims ‘invested’. More sophisticated schemes will entice their victims to continually ‘invest’ more money over an extended period of time or to purchase expensive plans and packages before pulling off the final disappearing act.

How to prevent it:

Only purchase cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, from reputable exchanges like Binance. No legitimate exchanges will offer their customers to purchase digital currencies and other virtual assets below market value.

If the promise of return sounds too good to be true, again, it probably is. Always speak to a financial advisor before making any investment decisions that involve large sums of money.


Email scams are getting more sophisticated by the day. The rise in popularity of digital currencies has been a controversial one. As a result, it has attracted a group of scammers to target people who are not yet savvy on the subject. This is why the right education on digital currencies, like Bitcoin, is crucial in helping people to identify and avoid these common scams and make more informed financial decisions.


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