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03/09/06: I wrote once before about how I almost got tricked by one of those "phishing" e-mails that the criminals are now using to try to get your eBay or PayPal or other site logins, but I got the exact same message twice this week, so either someone has it in for me or there are more [insert you favorite plural expletive] out there using the same program. While this one looked a lot like your basic PayPal e-mail, it contained the following line that made me laugh: "If you choose to ignore our request, you leave us no choise but to temporaly suspend your account." Folks, spelling errors are one of the more obvious indicators that the message that claims to be from PayPal most likely isn't.
     I don't know if it's doing any good, but I always forward there (with full headers) to spoof@[whatever they claim to be].com. Maybe they'll be able to catch one or two of these idiots, although I'm not holding my breath.

07/11/05: They almost got me.

    I got an e-mail this morning, supposedly from eBay, telling me that there was some suspicious activity on my account. At first, I thought maybe it's just because I put a couple items up for sale yesterday, for the first time in three months, and they were trying to verify it was me. But then I thought maybe there was a problem. I wasn't going to click the link in the message, since I still have a high level of suspicion about things on the 'net, but I passed my mouse pointer over the provided link, and noticed, via the status bar at the bottom of the browser window, that the link shown on the message did not match what the status bar says was the actual link. It was close, sure, but not exact. I looked again, and the link was supposed to be a site at "ebay.com", but it was actually "ebay.com.xxxxx.us" (the "xxxxx" was NOT related to eBay). I forwarded the message to eBay, and they confirmed that it was bogus.
    A couple months ago, my buddy's sister fell for one of these so-called "phishing" messages (a term I actually hate) and I razzed her a bit for clicking on an e-mailed link when she admitted she should have known better, but I have to say, although I've gotten these many times in the past, this one looked so legit that I went to eBay's site to check out if there was a problem. Usually the link in the message says "ebay.com" but the status bar says "aksjdhlaskdjthlasjk.com" or something else obviously suspicious, but this one was darn close. Plus, it somehow made it through SBC's junk mail filter, which has caught all the other phony eBay messages I've received in the past. That added an air of legitimacy to the message. Fortunately, as I said, I'm highly suspicious when it comes to e-mail, and I noticed the problem before my account was compromised.
    But something just occurred to me. There's been a bug in Microsoft's browser (which I'm forced to use at work) that sometimes doesn't display the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Usually it's when you click File, New, Window, but sometimes the status bar doesn't show up when I launch Internet Explorer by itself. If that bar was not there, it wouldn't have been as obvious that the message was bogus. The only way to fix this is to root around in the registry, which I can't do on my work machine. I guess that's another reason to dump IE and use Firefox.
    So the moral of this story is: Pay Attention. Don't ever click a link that you get in an e-mail, even if you're fairly sure that it's legit. If you really need to go to that link, open a small Notepad session over your browser window and hand-type the link into Notepad, then copy and paste it into your browser's Address line. DON'T copy the link from the message because if your finger slips, it could register as a click. And if you use IE, make sure the status bar is on at all times. You can turn it on by clicking View, Status Bar on the menu. Better yet, use Firefox. I've got a link, along with some other safety-related info, on my Safe Computing page. I'm not a security expert, but I read a lot, and I have some links to programs I use.
    And if you get an e-mail that's supposed to be from eBay, forward it (with full headers) to spoof@ebay.com, and they will tell you if it's legit or not.

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