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The Computer Corner

User Beware: That Link in Your Email May Not Be From Who It Appears To Be

 

COMPUTERS

By Charles Miller

The subject of this week’s column is a rerun, but it has been years since the last time I wrote on this topic. A recent telephone conversation pointed up the need for a refresher.

Regular readers of this column already know I never advise anyone to click on links in emails. Here’s one more example why.

A client called me for help with her iPad. She was having trouble getting it to accept her AppleID password, but she knew she was using the correct one. “I just confirmed it a few days ago,” she said.

“Confirmed?” I asked. She then told me she’d received an email from Apple asking her to confirm her password and credit card number. She’d followed the instructions telling her to click on a link in the email.

“Hang up the phone!” I ordered. “Pick up the phone, call your bank, tell them exactly what you just told me. DO IT NOW!”

A few hours go by before we speak by phone again. When we do, she tells me her credit card has been used for thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases. The bank could reverse those charges, but the worst part was that the bank immediately canceled her credit card and was sending her a new one. She was about to leave to the States. Canceling that credit card started a domino effect: she could not make a hotel reservation online. She wouldn’t be able to use Uber.

That fraudulent email’s link led to a beautifully designed fake copy of the apple.com web site. I cannot show it here in print, but if you see me walking down the street with my laptop, please stop me and I can show you the screen shots. The fake Apple web page is perfect until you read the address carefully. It says “apple.appleid-eu.info,” not a domain name Apple owns.

If you are foolish enough to enter your AppleID and password there, then the crooks now know them. If you are really foolish, confirm your credit card number. If you are really, really foolish, confirm your card’s expiration date and CVC number so the crooks can start shopping with your card. Unfortunately my client was really really, really foolish.

The simple solution to this problem is unfortunately extremely difficult, almost impossible, to achieve: you simply need the discipline to remember to never, never, never, never, EVER click on links in emails.

Clicking on a link in an email can potentially circumvent all the antivirus and anti-malware protections on your computer. Clicking on links in emails is not safe, and there is absolutely, positively no way to ever make it safe…So do not click on that link!

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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