email scamsApril Fool’s is upon us, and while playing pranks on friends and strangers is a great way to celebrate spring, there’s nothing funny about falling victim to a scam. We use our email accounts for just about everything, which unfortunately makes them easy targets for all sorts of scams. Although most people are aware of the basics of email safety — don’t click unfamiliar links and never download a suspicious attachment — there are several common scams that thousands of people fall for every year. These scams can cost you money, your identity and much more. Keep reading to find out some of the top email scams to avoid.

Email scams you should avoid

1. Phony requests to log into your account. Otherwise known as phishing emails, these arrive in your inbox designed to look like they come from companies you know — such as your bank or health insurance company. Often, they will tell you there is an urgent message awaiting you or your online account has been compromised. You will be asked to click a link and your username and password in order to confirm your identity. However, instead of directing you to the actual website, clicking the link takes you to a fake website set up by the scammer which then steals the information after you type it in. Avoid falling for these phishing emails by paying attention to the sender and content of any email you receive. Scammers often aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and you can often spot a fake because of poor grammar or spelling. At the very least, regard any email you receive about trouble with an online account with suspicion. If you are concerned, don’t click the link — instead, visit the website by typing it in yourself. That way, you can be sure you’re logging into the right place.

2. Nigerian letter fraud. Although this email scam has been parodied so much you’d think most people wouldn’t fall for it anymore, these emails still claim plenty of victims each year. According to the FBI, these fraudulent emails usually claim to be from a Nigerian government official or businessperson who is offering you the opportunity to share in the profits of millions of dollars the author is trying to take out of Nigeria. Sometimes these emails claim to originate from other countries, and sometimes they claim you have inherited the money, but regardless it’s still a scam. In order to claim your share of the profits, you are asked to send money that will help cover necessary expenses toward getting it out of the country. Those who send money are asked to mail or wire increasingly large amounts — often resulting in significant monetary loss. General rule of thumb: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You should never have to pay money to get money, so take any email promising you money of any kind once you send out a check or wire funds with a large grain of salt.

3. Fake employment emails. Gone are the days of mailing resumes and scanning wanted ads in the local newspaper to find employment. Job hunters these days conduct their searches through the Internet and their email accounts, which unfortunately makes them prime targets for scams. When you post your resume on job hunting websites, you are inviting scammers to contact you, so be on the alert to these email scams. If someone contacts you claiming to be a recruiter, do your own research on the company in question. Beware of clicking unfamiliar links, and don’t give out sensitive personal information — such as your bank account or social security number. Many of these fake employers masquerade as “work from home” schemes, hoping the allure of making easy money from the comfort of your couch will lure people into providing the information necessary to steal their identities or drain their bank account.

Are there ways to protect myself from email scams?

Phishing emails are a huge problem, so much so that most Internet security software programs now offer anti-phishing protection. If you do happen to click on a bad link, having anti-phishing and antivirus/antimalware protection on your side can provide an extra layer of security to ensure no real harm is done. You can read reviews of the top Internet security software programs to decide which is best for your needs.

Additionally, if your information does happen to become compromised, an identity theft protection service can be of great help. These services monitor the Internet black market and public records to ensure your information isn’t being misused, and many of them provide credit report monitoring so you can be alerted to any new activity on your reports. In the event that your identity is stolen, they will also help you navigate the restoration process. Read our reviews of the top identity theft protection services to learn more.