Your approach to any unsolicited email requests for payment or personal information should be to delete the email without clicking on any attachments or links.If you feel the email is legitimate based on previous contact, hover (but do not click) over the link and confirm that it points to the website of the sender.
No legitimate city or state government organization will send an unsolicited payment request via email, but if you are unsure, you should always call and verify the request.
These scams are not limited to emails alone. Identity thieves, scam artists and even legitimate marketers will also call to get personal info or solicit payment and your response should be NO. The other day I received a call from an individual claiming to represent an organization that raises money to support police officers. Although I have donated money in the past, I am always suspicious and I DO NOT transact any financial business over the phone. The caller reminded me that police officers put their lives on the line daily for our safety, clearly trying to evoke an emotional response, and then asked that I donate over the phone. I asked the caller to send me info by mail (not email) and that I would consider it. When he persisted in trying to get me to give my credit card for a donation over the phone I told him “No” and he promptly hung up. Legitimate or not, don’t provide any personal info, to any unsolicited caller. When I called the number back a few days later it rang once and then disconnected. If you are ever unsure what to do when you receive a phone call asking you for information tell the caller you need to call them back and ask for a call back number. Chances are they will just hang up on you.
Don’t let curiosity, guilt, shaming, or threat of a fine or service disconnection, keep you from doing your due diligence before disclosing your information. Remember if it’s unsolicited email, always start with “NO”.