Are you familiar with the “Nigerian Prince” scam? In a nutshell, this classic scam involves an email from someone claiming to be foreign royalty fleeing their home country. They have wealth they supposedly need to move, but without a bank account, they cannot do it. That’s why they need your help.
But once you provide them your bank account information, the communication stops. Then, the next thing you know, all of your money is missing. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book! Tap or click here to see some of the other top scams to watch out for online.
Just like how urban legends change and evolve with time, scammers also adjust their tricks to suit current events. And now, a new rendition of the Nigerian Prince scheme involves “government-backed” COVID-19 relief funds. But if you fall for the bait, you could get robbed. Here’s what you need to keep an eye out for.
FTC warning: Whatever you do, ignore this email
According to an alert posted by the FTC, a suspicious new scam email is circulating that puts people in significant financial danger.
A variation of the classic Nigerian Prince scheme, this email alleges to be from the FTC in regards to a so-called “COVID-19 “Global Empowerment Fund.” All you need to do, the email says, is respond with your bank account information and within hours, you’ll get a portion of relief money to spend on bills, utilities, rent and other necessities.
But as the FTC says, this fund “does not exist,” and the email is certainly not from the FTC. Instead, people who fall for the scam are at risk of having their accounts completely drained. To make matters worse, this comes at a time when millions of Americans are already struggling to make ends meet. Tap or click here to see what jobs are hiring right now.
How can I protect myself from this fraud email?
An important thing to remember is that the FTC (and almost any other government agency, for that matter) will never contact you directly by phone or email. Instead, these entities prefer regular old mail correspondence. If you get an email claiming to be from the FTC, IRS, or FCC, simply ignore it.
At the same time, the FTC is offering help for victims of fraud and scams like this one. If you believe you’ve been victimized by an email scam, the FTC advises you to visit IdentityTheft.gov for steps you can take to protect yourself. In addition, the FTC also recommends reporting suspected fraud to ftc.gov/complaint to prevent these schemes from spreading further.
Beyond that, if you see an email in your inbox with the subject line “COVID-19 Global Empowerment Fund,” you can immediately drop it in the trash. It may be annoying to have to keep an eye out for these email schemes, but it beats losing your hard-earned savings to hackers and cybercriminals.