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posted at January 2, 2012 4:00 PM EST
First: January 7, 2009
Last: January 2, 2012
This morning I checked my email and found out I was taking a trip on American Airlines. A trip I wasn't aware of. The header read "American Airlines Order #774626347". My first thoughts were, "I haven't booked a flight" and then "who is stealing my identity or credit card info" and "is a terrorist using my name to book a flight". You get the idea of what goes through your mind when you see something like this. From experience, this is an email that has an attachment and will likely be maliciois. An unsolicited email, no matter how official it looks or how personal it looks, NEVER OPEN AN ATTACHMENT!
Our email provider has a service whereby you can hover your mouse arrow over the header of the email and it will provde the sender's email address. If you did not know about this feature or do not have this feature, you can not appreciate how many emails are actually different than what appears on the surface of the email. In this case it was "email@example.com". Still looks offical.
First, I contacted American Airlines and spoke with an agent. I was told that Ameican Airlines does not send emails with an "Order Number" and this is not an American Airlines email. They have been getting phone calls about this for the past month. That was good news, because I now knew that my personal information had not been compromised.
The second source checked was McAfee Trusted Source (http://www.trustedsource.org/en/feedback/checking), a free service and you don't have to log into. Sure enough, "firstname.lastname@example.org" is a malicious email address. I went back to my email and opened it without opening the attachment. The attachment header indicated "ticket information". I then tagged this as phishing. Our email provider will now flag that email to anyone recieving it in one of their accounts.
Job complete? No, we are reminding the AARP members how vulnerable we remain to scams, frauds, and phishing on a daily basis. As AARP members, we should all be wise by now. But these unknown villains are constantly finding ways to rouse our curiousity, causing us to panic, or enticing us to get something free to open on their malicious deeds. So, the word to the wise: No matter how curious, no matter how paniced, no matter how much you want something free, no matter how legitimate the site or email looks to you, DO NOT open any attachment unless you can verify authenticity. If it is from a company you know and trust, go directly to their website or call the company to verify.
The same is true when you shut off your computer. First, we personally have placed do-not-call on our phones including our cell phones. We will never donate or do business with unsolicited callers. And, aside from the electronics, we do the same at the front door. No entry, no donations, no business. It's a hard line that will keep you, your identity, and your valuables safe.
There was a time when you could leave your doors unlocked without worry. You could trust your neighbor. In some parts of the country, you can still feel safe doing it. But times have changed. Even in "safe" living areas, people lock their doors at night or when away. With computers and telephones, the world is your neighborhood. You have friends and fiends and it is at times forboading to tell the difference. Cull out the fiends and lock the door on them.