Risky (Email) Business: The Dangers Lurking in your Inbox

inbox email scams

As we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season, we also find ourselves wading through an increase of email messages in our inbox. Retailers work feverishly to stand out among a sea of others, all vying for our holiday dollars. Colleagues seek to wrap up those end of year projects before vacation and friends & family send out their jolly holiday invites.

Inbox Scams to Watch Out For

In the busy whirlwind of the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to keep a close eye on your inbox. While email threats exist throughout the year, cyber criminals take special advantage of us during this time of year.

Invoice Copy or FW: Invoice Copy

If you are like most people and receive an email with this subject line and an attachment – you will most likely open the attachment, trying to figure out what the invoice is for. DON’T DO IT!!  The email trick is designed to pique your curiosity when in reality it is a malicious virus in the form of a ZIP file attachment.  This ZIP file, once opened will lock and encrypt all files on your computer and any network drive that it is connected to. If you don’t have a good backup, you are stuck paying a ransom to cyber criminals who may or may not follow through on their promise to send the decryption key. Happy holidays!

How You Can Avoid it: Never open unsolicited attachments of any kind.

Spear-phishing Emails

Spear-phishing emails are emails that are addressed to you and seemingly originate from someone you know.  The email includes some recognizable personal information that makes it seem legitimate.

One that we have seen in our area is an email from “the boss” who is on vacation and requesting that an employee wire money to them because of some sort of an emergency. Cyber criminals watch social media of successful business people and glean whatever they can to create believable emails to employees back in the office. And it works. The information they know allows them to create emails that we believe hook, line & sinker.  Unfortunately for many, once the money has been wired, there is little to be done to get it back.

How You Can Avoid It: Always speak to your boss by phone, especially if the email says they aren’t reachable by phone. You can also hover over the sender email to see exactly what email address it is originating from. Chances are the display name is your boss’ but the email it came from is not! Contact the local authorities if  you have any concerns at all.

‘Tis the Season Email Scams

Emails from well-known chain stores can be “spoofed”, meaning that the email you think is from them is actually from someone else.  Crooks use these to scam you, promising free gift cards in exchange for your personal information. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

How You Can Avoid It: Avoid clicking links within emails and giving away any personal information in return for that “free $100 gift card”.

Share with Others

These are just a few of the most common email scams we see. There are many different variations and we can’t warn you against all of them. What we can do is encourage you to change the way to respond to the emails that arrive in your inbox; help to educate employees and coworkers on the dangers that could be lurking there!

Don’t forget:

  • Always have a reliable Backup to protect your data
  • Use extreme caution when opening emails
  • Use a reliable anti-virus solution and keep it up to date
  • Use malware protection & firewalls to help ensure your data’s safety

Print out this Email Reminder and tape it to your monitor– just don’t use it to write down your  passwords 😉 We’ve included a few extras to share around the office!


Further Reading: Recognizing and Avoiding Email Scams



Mike Dorr, President

Mike began as a Burgess network engineer in 1998. He later spent 3 years as Five County Credit Union’s Director of IT before returning as an owner in 2006. He lives in Bath with his wife and children and is an active member of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

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