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Boooo! To Ghosted Email Senders
by Peggi Ridgway

A veritable hurricane of seemingly “legitimate” email has been making its way through the email inboxes of millions of Americans. With sender names like “Wells Fargo,” “Microsoft,” “Smith Barney” and even “Wordpix,” these communications are fishing for information from you and any recipient who falls for the ruse that the sender is who he says he is.

Don’t believe it!

Take special note:

Established institutions do not rely upon email to or from their constituents to update accounts or advise you of important events.
Instead, they resort to an old-fashioned but widely accepted method of
communicating: The U.S. Postal Service. If your account needs attention, you’ll receive a letter in your physical mailbox, not your email inbox.

What do these ghosted senders want anyway?

Smith Barney bogus emails sent in September 2004 were an attempt to trick consumers into revealing personal financial data. Recipients were prompted to click on a link to a website where they were given the opportunity to enter personal account information. The Securities and Exchange Commission jumped on this the same day the emails were sent, and the real Smith Barney website contains a warning about it.

Anything can be faked; but there are tipoffs.

Senders’ email addresses and website addresses can be sufficiently disguised to fool even the sharpest, most web savvy consumers. With the theft of your identity as their goal, ghosted senders compose businesslike messages that sound legitimate. Watch for signs the message was written by someone for whom English is not the native language (many originate offshore). When phrases are elaborate and very “proper” (such as “It is our earnest desire that you update your account information”), it’s obvious the writer has made a study of English in order to write it properly. Spelling and grammatical errors are a tipoff, as are web links that contain numerous percent (%) signs and are very long.

Whatever you do, don’t click on any link in any questionable email message. A friend of ours always clicked the links in the messages she received supposedly from Microsoft, because they promised “updates” to her Microsoft operating system. We now suspect that the recent total crash of her computer and the loss of all her software applications was the result of a virus implanted when she clicked on the link in a ghosted email message that she thought was from Microsoft.

How do you know who’s real and who’s fake?

The best attitude, when you receive an email announcing a critical update from Microsoft or information about your CitiBank (or other) account is to first doubt the legitimacy of the sender and the message.
If you want to explore further, just to be sure you’re not missing something of importance that’s for real, turn on the “preview” or “reading pane” feature of your email program. Get the gist of the message through the preview. If you have a spam filter program installed on your computer, you’ll be able to mark it as “spam” or “enemy;” or just hold Shift + Delete to delete it permanently, or just Delete to send it to your Deleted folder.

You can certainly defeat the ghosts and goblins of the email messaging world by carefully reviewing messages before you open them and by questioning those that appear to come from companies that typically contact you by U.S. Postal Service. Just Booooo those bad guys away.


Permission to reprint this article is granted if attribution is included as follows or similar:

Copyright Wordpix Solutions and author Peggi Ridgway,



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