The internet has revolutionized the way we do business. Unfortunately, it has also helped con artists find new opportunities! Any time you open your email inbox, you’re at risk of falling victim to an online scam. Be on guard for the following five warning signs of a hoax, and make sure to educate your employees about these issues as well.

iStock_000042348230_SmallRequests for online IDs and passwords. You receive a very official-looking email from your bank, Paypal, or some other business. The email directs you to a link, where you input your online ID and password. Soon after, your bank account is drained or your identity is stolen. What just happened?

That email was a fake, and so was the website to which you were directed. Scam artists often establish very official-looking websites and email templates, even stealing a legitimate business logo to do so. Then they request your login information, and use it to steal your personal information.

Any time you are asked to enter a login ID and password, check for “https://” in the address bar. Fake websites often begin with “http://” and no “s”.

You are offered a large sum of money. Whether it’s a lottery prize or a Nigerian prince who needs to hide his money, scenarios in which you are offered a large sum of money are always scams. You will be asked to provide your bank account information in order to complete a wire transfer of cash, or you will be asked to pay “processing fees” to collect your “winnings”. These emails are always scams; delete them, and never make contact with these people.

Overly eager international buyers. You post an item for sale on eBay or a similar website, and soon an offer arrives in your inbox. An international buyer wants to send you much more than the item is worth, in order to cover the cost of international shipping, and you are supposed to ship them the item plus any cash left over after shipping charges are paid.

The money order these con artists will send you is fake, but you won’t discover that fact until after you have deposited it into your bank account, ship the item and cash, and receive a notice from your bank a few days later. The bank wants their money back, and you’ve sent cash and a valuable item to a fake buyer overseas. Remember that any time you sell an item online, international shipping can be calculated and included in the price. There is no need for anyone to send you “extra money”.

Requests for disaster relief donations. Any time there is a tragedy, such as a storm or wildfire, people want to help. Unfortunately that also means scammers will take advantage of your emotional state. If you receive an email requesting funds for victims of a disaster, resist the temptation to click into what might be a fake website. Instead, directly contact the organization (such as Red Cross) to make your contribution.

Dream vacation offers. You receive an email offering you a dream vacation, for an unusually low price. In many cases, these are outright scams, and you will arrive at your destination to discover that no room is booked in your name. Other times, you might indeed enjoy a legitimate vacation, but find that your credit card has been charged for numerous “extras” that were listed in the fine print of the offer. Always book vacations directly with the resort of your choice, or use a reputable travel agent.

These are just some of the common warning signs of an email scam. Remember to always use caution online, especially when your personal information is at stake. Remind your employees, too, that their actions put the company at risk. Educate them on the common warning signs of a scam, and give us a call if you’re worried about your network security.