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,