October 24, 2014

Protect yourself from fake (spoofed) emails

I get several emails a week from websites claiming to be PayPal or eBay telling me that if I don’t respond quickly they will suspend my account. It’s unfortunate that probably a lot of people fall for this. There is a very simple way to eliminate the possibility of being taken by these scam artists.

Fake or Spoofed email scams (also called phishing scams) are not limited to PayPal and eBay, but can be seemingly sent for any service where you would input your sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security numbers, etc. This can include websites for utility companies, banks, your internet service provider, hosting company, etc.

The best way to not getting fooled by these scammers is to NOT click any links in the suspicious emails. How these scams work is that the spoof email will show a legitimate URL in the email, such as:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_login-run

but in reality take you to a completely different site. Our example shows the actual login URL for PayPal, but when you click it you will be taken to Google. Now, the scammers will not take you to Google, but will link to a page that looks exactly like PayPal (for this example) where, if you are not careful, you’ll input your login information and even credit card/banking information before you realize that it’s a scam.

The suggested route? To do your online banking, pay for utilities, use services such as PayPal & eBay: simply type the website URL into your browser address bar instead of clicking on a provided link in the email. This way you can be sure that you are logging into the correct website, and you will not have to worry about being taken by a spoofed email.

Here are a couple of references for protecting yourself from spoofed emails:
How to protect your eBay account from Spoofed emails
Protect your PayPal account from Spoofed emails
Information from the ftc.gov website regarding phishing scams

If you feel that you have been a victim and have already provided sensitive information via a spoof email, please see the bottom of the page via the ftc.gov link (directly above) for information on how to go about getting help in protecting yourself from identity theft.

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