Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why You Can't Scam Me

We all get spam in our e-mail inbox. Most times, we're told we've won a foreign lottery or we're asked to help move a large sum of cash from a war-torn country, and for our efforts we'll be paid handsomely.

Other scams are more clever, where you are sent a message from a major bank, warning you that your account has been breached and that you need to provide information to prove you are the rightful account holder. I have received many such messages: the trouble is that I have never been a customer of any of these banks, and so the scam is foiled.

Recently, I received an e-mail that seemed to originate from PayPal, with which I hold an account. But when I read the message, I knew right away that it was a scam.

Here's the message, copied exactly:
Dear PayPal Customer,

You have added
as a new email address for your PayPal account.

If you did not authorize this change, check with family members and others
who may have access to your account first.

If you still feel that an unauthorized person has changed your email,
submit the form attached to your email in order to keep your original email
and restore your Paypal account access.

NOTE: The form needs to be opened in a modern browser which has javascript
enabled (ex: Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3, Safari 3, Opera 9)

Please understand that this is a security measure intended to help protect
you and your account. We apologize for any inconvenience.

If you choose to ignore our request, you leave us no choice but to temporary suspend your account.

PayPal Account Review Department.
Here's how I knew that PayPal wasn't really behind this message:
  • Not only do I not watch Jimmy Fallon's late-night show, I'm pretty sure that he wouldn't be interested in sharing the meager amount of money that I keep in that account.
  • No financial institute would ask you to check with family members about having access to your account. That's a no-no for many such corporations.
  • A "modern" browser? As opposed to an "industrial-era" or "Medieval" browser? I'm sure that no legitimate corporation would use that adjective. As a technical writer, that word just seems to be too unusual.
  • By claiming that I would "leave <them> no choice," I believe I'm being threatened. Whatever opinion I have of PayPal, I don't think they would threaten their customers. Not over a potential security breach, that is.
To me, the whole message sounds dodgy, and rightly so. It's poorly written, and you really can't fool a writer if you're sending a serious message but are sounding idiotic. So my response, like all other bogus messages, is no response.

I'm leaving them no choice but to go and screw themselves.

What has been your most-ridiculous e-mail scam?

Be careful out there.

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