Spotting Business Scam Emails

During this chaotic time caused by the ongoing pandemic, we’ve noticed that scam emails are taking up a larger proportion of our email inbox. Scam emails are inevitable, but these desperate times make small businesses more vulnerable, which is precisely in their favour. 

Now, we’re not experts in spotting scam emails by any measure but we have navigated one far enough to make them show their hand a bit so we know what to look for. 

1. Out of the Blue

Scam emails are usually completely out of the blue. This will most likely be from an email address that you have had no interactions with before. Sometimes the email address will be the giveaway as it’ll just be a random jumble of letters and numbers, designed to be a throwaway email if needed. Sometimes, they’ll use a very generic name, either a personal account or a business name. It’s typically good practice to take a peek at the email address and not take the name that your email client shows at face value. 

2. Odd Subject Line

We have our share of legitimate clients that send us emails with weird or odd subject lines (sometimes no subject line at all), but in the case of these scam emails, they’ll go for generic subject lines with words that’ll most likely break through a standard spam filter such as ‘Order’ with no other significant details. 

  1. ‘Do you accept credit cards?’

This will most likely be the first things they’ll ask. This is because paying through credit card is an integral part of the scam and making sure you’ll never see the money they promised. If you follow through with this, there’s a good chance the card will either be a stolen card or they’ll chargeback immediately. 

3. Oddly Custom Order

Our business works in printing custom banners and the like, so we are no strangers to custom orders. But one example of a scam email we received asked for a quote for an oddly sized banner and in an abnormally large quantity. The invoice for that would have been pretty significant and it’s not a product that we normally have on our website. 

4. Shipping Details

The shipping part is where it gets very scammy. In our example, the customer apparently needed to get them shipped to the Virgin Islands, and using the logistics company they apparently contracted. They sent over an invoice, asking us to pay them first, promising that we would get it back once they received it. 

Now the invoice is the interesting part. The names of the shipper don’t match up at all. The supposed logistics company basically doesn’t exist on Google. It’s quite frankly, a weird place to send a bunch of banners. And in a normal business interaction, that’s not how we deal with shipping stuff internationally. 

I’m sure that there’s plenty of scam email types out there that this hasn’t covered but hopefully, even if it can help just one small business owner be spared from a scam, it’s worth it. Remember, it’s easy to get excited about a potential job during this climate, but we should never let down our guard and be taken advantage of.