Portland, OR asked in Consumer Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Internet Law for Oregon

Q: I get tons of email telling me I've been chosen to receive a lot of $ is there any law against it or way to stop it?

I get mail from people claiming to be upper management from various financial institutions and they claim to have anything from Western Union money transfers waiting for me if i send $50 to them first to pay for processing, to people claiming to be agents of some sort wanting to deliver trunks of cash, to people that are dying and just need a beneficiary to leave their fortune to (but I'll need to wire $150 to the processing office to pay to have all of the forms notarized). Most of them get filtered into my spam folder, so it's a pretty good hint that there's no truth to any of it. The sad thing is I'm broke so couldn't send 'em anything even if i wanted to fall prey to any of these scams. So my questions are: 1. Are any of these things ever real? 2. Whether they're real or not, is it legal to do this kind of soliciting? 3. Is there any way to make any of them pay up? 4. Is there any way to capitalize on catching illegal internet scammers?

1 Lawyer Answer
Joanne Reisman
Joanne Reisman
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: Most of these scam operations, and they are scams, are based outside the United States. So while these scams undoubtedly violate more than one US Law, actually tracking down the criminals and arresting them is next to impossible.

Here is a website called "scam busters" that you should read: https://www.scambusters.org/nigerianfee.html The federal trade commission, offers a "scam alert" service. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts?utm_source=takeaction You can also report scams that you discover. Reading about and learning about scams is interesting and can make you a more saavy consumer, but it won't stop the scammers.

Probably the best way to verify that something I got via email is a scam is to run some of the information through an internet search, such as google. Try copying and pasting part of the email message into a search engine, or a phone number into a search engine, and see what pops up. Odds are you will be taken to a web page where many other people have already reported this "sender" and "message" as a scam.

Here is what you can do to reduce the scam emails:

1. Make sure you have some type of spam filter on your emails. This is usually connected with the company that provides your email service including free email services like gmail, yahoo, and microsoft. Find the settings for your spam filter and increase the sensitivity. This may filter emails that you actually want, so you will have to manually enter the email addresses or domains of the senders you want to get email from. Why the spam filter will reduce your scam emails - because the spam filter should be able to read and identify suspicious sender addresses and assume that these are spam emails.

2. Do not click on any links in any suspicious emails. Do not respond to any of these emails. Any interaction with these emails sends a message to these crooks that they have reached a real address and a potential target.

3. Change your email address and your password for your email account. Your personal information could have been hacked in any manner of ways and posted on the dark web. This is because major companies such as Yahoo, Amazon, and Target have been victims of large hacks. The data stolen is then traded among criminals on the dark web.

4. Change all other passwords on all your other accounts - don't use the same password repeatedly.

5. Have your computer scanned for spyware. I like superantispy free edition.


This is a great free program that will remove cookies and spyware from your computer. If you surf the internet a lot, use it once a day.

6. Use a good virus scanner and make sure it is up to date and that you run a scan on your entire system at least once a week. I just started using the free version of Avast virus scanner and I am pretty happy with it. If found some Trojans that my prior virus software missed: https://www.avast.com/index

7. Take your computer to a professional computer place at least once and have them run programs that do a deep scan of your computer for implanted spy programs that might escape detection. You may have to pay a fee for this but it shouldn't be expensive. Best Buy has tech services that will do this for you but I don't think the skill level of the computer techs at Best Buy is consistent. I prefer to work with small local companies. An amazing internet provider near Portland is Hevanet.com. This is a small locally run company that charges for their internet services but earns every penny in the over the top tech support they provide. They may or may not be accepting new customers at the moment. http://www.hevanet.com/index.html

(I have also had good tech support at Pacific Solutions on Powell Blvd in Portland. 503.236.2970)

Hope this helps!

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