Fraud Watch Network: Scam emails

Sadly, junk email and text messages are now parts of everyday life. In a recent email received from a reader they asked, “I’m wondering why I keep getting so much junk mail when I don’t do much on the computer at all – just email a few friends and order a few things. I don’t complete warranties or fill our surveys except from the doctor’s office. Any suggestions?”

Much of the junk is not criminal activity but is a part of aggressive marketing from our internet providers and online search engines. Companies like Verizon, Consolidated, Comcast, and Spectrum share information with their affiliates. Google, Twitter, and Facebook are notorious for sharing data with advertisers and even selling contact information. Free services have to make money somewhere and it’s not by charging us fees. I often comment, “If you are accessing the service free of charge, you are not the consumer; you are the product.”

Here are a few ways to stop some of the junk:

  1. If it comes from a legitimate company, they usually include a link to “Unsubscribe” which is a safe action if you are sure that the company is not fake or an imposter. Positive verification is relatively easy. With a website, the URL of the website should display the name of the company, spelled correctly, with “.com” immediately after the name. Note: Scammers use misspelled names or include a real company name somewhere in the address to fool you, such as or
  2. If you can’t verify the legitimacy of the sender, do not click unsubscribe. That lets the sender know that you are a real person and set you up to receive more junk. The simple act of clicking a link can provide information to the website creator such as your location, type of computer being used, identification of the web browser being used, the type of computer operating system, and even identify your specific computer address. Also, resist the temptation to download documents unless you absolutely know the sender.
  3. Notify your internet service provider of junk messages and ask them how you can filter them out. In many cases, they can filter out or at least prescreen malicious websites or email and alert you.
  4. If you are receiving junk from the same sender, you can adjust settings or preferences of your email program and create a rule that moves any message coming from this name or address to trash. This will not stop the messages, but it will move them to trash when they arrive so that you will not see them in your inbox. I do not use a PC or Outlook, but if your email address is Microsoft (, the software offers filtering to deal with unwanted email, as does practically all email software. But, email software features are not the same with all programs. Apple is very good and helpful if you are using Apple Mail. Other computer companies will refer you to the specific software provider so if you use Microsoft Outlook, you will need to contact customer service at Microsoft. Another source for help is to contact the place where you purchased the computer.

Malware and virus protection programs like BitDefender deal with malware and viruses, not junk email or deceptive websites. Regardless of the computer operating system, be it Apple, Chrome, Windows, you do need to keep the protection software subscription up to date in order to protect from newly developed malware.

Often, we become willing accomplices to the criminals or victims of aggressive and deceptive marketing. Here is where human nature kicks in. Offers of expensive prizes for simply completing a survey, high return investments, emotional appeals, extreme scarcity, authority/credibility, or situations of urgency break down our defenses and opens us up to victimization. Regardless of the message, particularly when it comes from a stranger, step back and think. Let logic and reason guide your actions online.


Questions or concerns? Contact

Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, Mr. Scammer, distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, VT –

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