It’s in times like these when I thank my lucky stars for my partly geeky nature. I’m the administrator for the generic contact email account attached to this website. And I access this account, like I do for my numerous email accounts, using a mail client on my laptop and similarly on my smartphone. Yesterday, I received this email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
I didn’t think anything of it at first. Looked like the usual PayPal email. Had the standard header, with the ‘Secure Transaction’ link and padlock icon. The email was in perfect business English, like I would expect of PayPal. It said: “As part of our efforts to provide a safe and secure environment for the online community, we regularly screen account activity. Our review of your account has identified an issue regarding its safe use. We have placed a restriction on your account as a precaution.”
Then it went on to explain how I can rectify the situation: “To lift the restriction we will require some further information from you. If, once we review your further information and we're confident that the use of your account does not present a safety risk to our service and customers, we'll be happy to reinstate your account. We have sent you an attachment which contains all the necessary steps in order to restore your account access. Download and open it in your browser. After we have gathered the necessary information, you will regain full access to your account.”
Asking me to download and open an attachment in my browser was what first made my phishy antennae twitch. So I started looking for more clues. email@example.com was in the ‘To’ field, followed by <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Hmmmm... Then it hit me what was REALLY fishy about the whole thing. My PayPal account isn’t even linked to this email address!
Just to be on the safe side, I go over to www.paypal.com and log in there - the way they always recommend. I go through my account and don’t see anything about a restriction. Suspicions confirmed, I look for where I can report this what-is-likely-to-be-a phishing attempt and find instructions here
At the end of all this, I decided I’d write this post to share with those who may not have the same geeky (suspicious) nature that I do, in the hopes that we may help you avoid becoming prey to such hoaxes. If this has happened to you, do share your experience in the comments box below.
Oh, and phishers, it’s really not cool. The same goes for spammers. We’d really appreciate it if you don’t target us again. Or anyone else, for that matter. Thanks!