All kinds of nasty scams spread via email. Email scams are often variations on the investment scam or the lottery scam. Many emails purport to be from a rich or well-connected individual and claim to give you a cut in their fortune if you will just offer a little assistance to them.
These are known as 419 scams or “Nigerian email scams” (although the email’s country of origin is not always Nigeria). The stories vary widely, but targets are led to believe they’ll be given a fortune, but often end up spending a fortune.
Some victims will get more and more engrossed in the trap, go into denial, and send multiple payments in hope of getting the big payout they were initially promised. Many times, family members can’t convince their victimized loved one that they are being scammed, even after they have lost everything. It’s as if the victim has become enchanted.
This trick is old but still lives. Essentially a victim is told they have won a sweepstakes or lottery, but that they must make a payment to “unlock” their winnings. (As noted above, some emails use this tactic). Often, seniors who fall for the ruse are sent a check that initially appears to have great value, and only a few days later, bounces. During that lag time, “the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket.”
How to Avoid: Be wary, again, of what seems to be too good to be true. Remember that if you have won a sweepstakes, you shouldn’t be asked to pay mysterious and suspicious fees within a day or two of the award.