How to spot fake email from legitimate companies

Filed under: Computing Tips,Security - Oct 23 2012

Updated 8/26/14:

We have seen many emails appearing to come from legitimate companies with unexpected order confirmations or cancellations and account balance notifications – all with shockingly high dollar amounts that peak the curiosity. These emails are the latest tricks by spammers to lure people to open the email and visit a malicious website that spreads spam and malware. This tactic emphasizes an important computing safety tip: Never click on links in email unless you are absolutely sure about what website the link will take you to.

Some of the companies that are represented in the phony emails include UPS, Amazon, PayPal, Verizon Wireless and US Airways.

How to tell where a link is pointing to. The link below initially looks like it will direct you to the auction website. But if you hover your mouse over the link text you should notice text along the bottom-left bar of your e-mail client or web browser that shows where the link actually points to – which in my example will take you to Computer Techs’ contact information page.

When you click on the screen shot below you can see an official looking e-mail I received that appears to be from “eBay”. I hovered my mouse over the link “Proceed to Account Update” and the status bar along the bottom-left corner of my web browser shows that the link does not point to a legitimate eBay web page, but rather a long link that happens to have the word “ebay” in it to fool the recipient.

Fake e-mail

If you receive a questionable email, never click on the link in the email. Instead open your web browser and go to the company’s website by manually typing their website address into the address bar.

Also see: How to recognize emails that “phish” for your information

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One Response to “How to spot fake email from legitimate companies”

  1. KATHY LANE Says:

    Mark, That is really a good article about who not to unsubscribe from. I never thought of that. Thanks. Kathy

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