10 Email Scams To Watch Out For And How They Work

Unless your penis has successfully been lengthened by nine inches or your brother is legitimately a Nigerian prince, I’m sure we can all agree that email scams are among the worst first-world problems on the Internet. Here are 10 of the biggest offenders.

For full access to this list, please send $650 to Jeremy Glass at Supercompressor.com via Western Union. God bless you.

Health and diet scams

How it works: You’ve seen these: “Need to lose weight for summer?” “Gives energy and burns fat” “Reduce body fat and build lean muscle without exercise.” This scam lures consumers with the promise of a miracle drug that will ultimately never work. These products, for the most part, aren’t approved by the FDA and are dangerous at worst and useless at best.

The FBI email

How it works: By claiming to be part of the FBI’s totally real Monetary Crimes Division in (surprise) Nigeria, the sender tells the victim that they’ve inherited a large sum of money that can only be accessed by (double surprise) sending a small sum of money to the sender. The FBI bit is a nice touch, guys. Real good stuff there.


How it works: Phishing is one of the most common forms of identity theft and—and this is the really sh*tty part—it’s really easy to pull off. It basically involves sending a user a fraudulent form that prompts people to enter personal details on a fake website that looks like the real thing. Scams like this can take take form as a bogus Facebook page or Amazon-like website. Don’t do it, people: IT’S A TRAP.

The Trojan Horse email

How it works: This particular email is the black death of scams, because of how quickly and easily it can get someone. A joke, chain letter, e-card, or photo is sent from an anonymous source to a person. When the email is clicked, a secret “backdoor” is opened, allowing an attacker access to your computer. Let’s just say, the scammer isn’t going to use this information for fun. Beware the Pitbull CD that will be bought with your credit card.

The Business email

How it works: Formerly known as the Man-in-the-E-mail Scam, this global scam targets wealthy business owners with the promise of doing business abroad in foreign markets. One party will receive fraudulent funds from a fake foreign corporation in their personal accounts, which they are told to disperse into other accounts outside the United States. When the scammed party tries to take out money, the money will be mysteriously gone.

The Nigerian 419 scam

How it works: The sender promises the victim a large sum of money that can only be accessed if a small (but still significant) sum of money is sent over first. Then the sender—posing as a Nigerian prince—disappears with your hard-earned cash. Fun fact: this is called the “419” scam, because that specific number refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code regarding fraud.

Even more fun fact: one man once tricked a 419 scammer into writing every single page of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets by hand. The scammer wasn’t pleased.

The secret shopper scam

How it works: So, here’s the thing about secret shoppers—it’s a real profession where real people infiltrate restaurants and businesses and rate them. Scammers have taken note of this legitimate—albeit annoying—group of people and will offer the experience to become a secret shopper to unsuspecting users. They’re then prompted to enter their bank account information, which is then used for awful things like nuclear weapons and Pitbull CDs.

The sexy lady email

How it works: Is some hottie in your area, who's almost too good-looking to be real, chatting you up? Well, she's not; you’re getting played. In this scheme, a scandalous conversation begins to arise on email, which is then taken to one’s smartphone. The ensuing scandalous messages and photos are then posted on a website and can only be removed for a large fee. It’s straight-up sextortion.

Traffic ticket scams

How it works: Scammers will send an email claiming people have gotten a parking ticket—typically in NYC—while providing a “safe and easy” way to pay it off. I legitimately got this one last night. I haven't driven a car in two years...so do the math.

The hitman scheme

How it works: The email recipient is told via an “anonymous tip” that a “close friend” has hired a hitman to take them out. Unless the recipient sends over a large sum of money, they’re going to end up sleeping with the fishes—and not in the sexy way. People, if someone’s threatening to kill you by email, be mature and do what I would do: respond by sending the 24-hour of Nyan Cat video.

Jeremy Glass is the Vice editor for Supercompressor and will wire you $50 if you follow him on twitter @CandyandPizza.