Saturday, 18 October 2014

How to recognise scam e-mails

Scam e-mails come in various forms. One type tempts you to click on a link which appears to go somewhere safe, but which actually takes you to a site you’d prefer not to visit. 

Even if an e-mail appears to be from someone you know, do not accept the links as genuine unless you were really expecting them, and they pass these tests. 

LOOK AT THE HEADER

Recently I received a suspicious e-mail. Although apparently from Facebook Administration (which was already enough to alert me) the actual “From” e-mail address was notification+wysjdtqzmh@facebookmail.comAnything with a random string of letters, or where the “From” name is quite different from the underlying e-mail address should make you suspicious. (In fact Facebook does send e-mails with an apparently random string of letters.) 

Sometimes – if you are only looking at the header – that should be enough to make you delete the message. However, if you wish to check further, and are reading the whole e-mail, check out any other links.

IF IN DOUBT - LOOK AT THE BODY

The e-mail said: “Follow the link: http://www.facebook.com/support/message/a12bcd-adc2b” which may look ok, but when I hovered my mouse over the link (as you can do - but don't click) the actual address it was pointing at was something like: http://217.123456.2/~radjan/deviatexxx.html. (I've added some x's to make sure no-one goes to a scam page.)

Seeing that they were quite different, I deleted the e-mail as it was obviously a scam.

SPELLING and GRAMMAR

Another way of recognising an e-mail as a scam (especially the ones apparently coming from a bank) is to spot glaring errors in grammar or spelling. 

Much as I dislike bankers, I suspect they know how to use a spellchecker! Twice recently I have received e-mails which asked for my “baniking details”. Another one to delete! 

SOPHISTICATED SCAMS (Mirroring) 

Having written the above, I then received a very professional-looking e-mail again seeming to come from Lloyds. They had obviously read my comments, and avoided most of the mistakes I have mentioned. 

There were still some errors in the grammar (and I don’t have a Lloyds account) but the most obvious aspect was that the e-mail took me to a website where I could input personal information. 

Although this looked like a Lloyds' website, it wasn't. 

This is a Mirroring scam, where the website you are seeing looks and acts like the bank’s website, but it is actually passing your information to a third party! 

How do you know? Well, no bank will e-mail you asking you to input personal information.

The apparent website is a folder on your computer. In fact the website said “We'll never direct you to the log on page from an e-mail” which was effectively what the e-mail was doing! 

As a last piece of sophistication the page had real Lloyds telephone numbers and a link to a Lloyds page saying “How can I tell that this site is secure” !!

For advice on scams and computer security, give me a ring.


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