As I am sure you are well aware, there are many people out there who send bogus emails saying all sorts of things, hoping to get information from you to gain access to your accounts, information, money, etc. I’m putting up this post based on a growing number of fake Hotmail emails I have received (believe me, I am the wrong person to spam with fake Microsoft emails) as well as in response to what others have flagged around fake Microsoft phone calls taking place right now to help inform you what to look out for regarding yourself and those you know.

To the right is a snapshot of a fake Hotmail security alert email I received a few times last week, over the weekend, and into this week. The premise of it is, my Hotmail account has been flagged for spam and I’m supposed to send them a bunch of information to verify my identity so they don’t shut my account down.

There are so many things that scream, “FAKE!” about this mail, but I’m going to point out a few things to keep an eye out for to help protect yourself from things like this.
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As you can see in the image above (click it for full size), I have noted several things to watch out for when you get emails telling you to disclose information or for access to an account:

  1. Always look out for mis-spelled product names. This is a sure way to know something is wrong with the email you received.
  2. When you see a bunch of grammatical errors (such as the missing “a” noted above) or Capital Letters thrown In Randomly (like you will see in the image above), this should be a quick flag that something is wrong with the email.
  3. We NEVER ask you to send us your personal/account information to us via email! If you see this, you know it is not from us.
  4. Look for footers and notations that look wrong. For instance, in the example above:
    • Notice the asterisked item, “*This assumes a reasonable growth rate.” Do you see any referring asterisk in the actual communication that refers to that footnote? Also, what does a “reasonable growth rate” have to do with your Hotmail account being compromised??? Obviously, this has been copied from somewhere else
    • See where it says, “read our online Privacy Statement?” We always hyperlink “Privacy Statement” to take you to the privacy statement so you can actually read it. There is the same error in the line below it where it states, “please visit Windows Live Hotmail Help,” yet there is no hyperlink to it.
      • By the way, even if you see things hyperlinked, do NOT blindly click links. If you hover your mouse over a hyperlink, it will show you the address it wants to take you to. Often, these junk emails will take you to some obfuscated web address or something different from what they say. If you see this, do NOT click that link!
      • Speaking of links, notice the top of the email picture, the “To:” in the mail isn’t even my address. You will often see this as well where the email comes in to you, but the “To” is an address that is not you or a “group” type of address. This should be a big warning flag
    • Notice the copyright in the footer: 2009. 2009??? Really? Big red flag!

There are other things that should alert you to fakes like this, such as:

  • What’s with the circus colors? Lime green? Really? And why are we changing colors every paragraph?
  • Where is the Hotmail logo or Microsoft logo in this?

By the way, this is just one kind of fake mails that people send out trying to pretend to be Microsoft. Please take a look at my How to avoid scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently post that I put up earlier on several of the others that you should watch out for (Microsoft lottery, security updates, and more) and it also includes links to additional security information available from Microsoft to help protect yourself.. Oh, and please let your friends, family, colleagues, clients, etc. know about these as well.

Another scam going on right now (and has in the past as well), is the “This is Microsoft calling to help you with your Windows” phone calls. Seriously, they are random calls, out of the blue, claiming to be us calling to help you with your Windows.

Our Canadian Team just put up a post about this scam last week, so I’m just going to point you there to read more instead of repeating the same info here:
Help Protect Your Friends And Family From Phone Scams.

One thing they did include in their post, which is really helpful, is the infographic to the right. You can click the image to the right to see it full size.
SecurityInfographic

Another general tip to help keep you safe is, if someone emails you and says that your account (be it Microsoft, a bank, a credit card, etc.) is in jeopardy or needs action, instead of clicking the links in the mail or sending a bunch of information back to them that contains your account or personal information, go to the site directly and see what is going on. For instance, if you get an email that says, “CLICK HERE to unlock your account!,” instead of blindly clicking that link (which will probably take you to a site that will do bad things to you), go to your web browser and type in the address of your account directly to see what it says (such as www.hotmail.com) If your Hotmail account is actually blocked, you won’t be able to get into it. If you log in just fine with no error or security warnings, you’re obviously NOT locked out of your account. I see these types of mails a lot, supposedly from banks, credit cards, online payment sites, etc.

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Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric LigmanFollow me on TWITTER, LinkedIn, and RSS and see “What I’m thinking
Director, Worldwide Partner Experience
Microsoft Corporation
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

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