I got an email in my inbox a few days ago. It sure seemed to be from Amazon.com. But when I opened it, I immediately noticed five glaring problems that let me know it was a fake.
Here's a screenshot of the email. See how many of the problems you can spot before I point them out.
From: "Amazon Inc." <email@example.com>
Subject: Unusual activity For Your Account .
Date: February 12, 2014 at 2:28:36 PM MST
To: Kim Komando
Reference number: < P2Z023519>
This servicing email is being sent to you regarding activity on Your account .Our expert nice monitoring systems detect an online problem.
Access From another Location dated 2/12/2014 We Lock Your Account For Your Security.
Please Update Your Online Access IMMEDIATELY to Unlock Your Account. Keep you safe good one.
Thank you and God bless you. It's hard to stay safe today.
Did you spot the problems? Let's check your answers.
1. The "From" address
The first think you should notice is that while the From says "Amazon Inc." the actual email address is "firstname.lastname@example.org". I don't know about you, but that doesn't look like an official Amazon email address. In fact, it looks like a computer at a school in Pennsylvania has a spam virus. Learn how to detect and stop a spam virus on your computer.
Some email systems will only show you the name in the From field and not the actual email address. If that's the case, you can usually hover your mouse cursor over the From name to see it.
No matter how much it gets proofread, any company is going to occasionally send out an email with a spelling or grammar error. Fine.
However, phrases like, "This servicing email," "our expert nice monitoring systems," and "keep you safe good one," wouldn't make it out the door of any reputable company. Not to mention the haphazard capitalization.
This was clearly written by someone with a tenuous grasp on the English language and not a copywriter at a multibillion-dollar international company.
If Amazon's proofreaders were asleep when this was sent, then its designers were, too. The Amazon logo is legitimate, as is the color scheme. This was obviously copied from a legitimate Amazon email.
However, the line breaks and spacings are a complete mess. Words that shouldn't be bold are and some words that aren't bold should be.
And what's up with that security badge image? That doesn't fit at all.
Plus, the image is actually embedded in the email. Most images in corporate emails pull from a remote server. That's how the Amazon logo in the same email works.
4. In-body links
The in-body link on "Update Your Online Access" should be a huge giveaway. No company talking about a security problem would include a link in an email.
Instead, it would tell you to visit Amazon.com and log in to your account. Then it would include instructions on where to go to fix the problem. That's it.
You wouldn't know this from the image I posted above, but if you hovered your mouse cursor over the link in the actual email, you'd see that it points to "http://smimagination.com/poker.php" (please don't go there, I only included it for illustrative purposes). That's clearly not an Amazon address.
5. Non-corporate phrases
When was the last time you received an email from a major corporation that ended with "God bless you"? Remember, this isn't an email from your aunt. It's supposed to be from a multibillion-dollar international company that isn't going to risk offending anyone.
Plus, there's no signoff. Usually it will say it's from Amazon's Customer Service team or a similar branch of the company.
This email just ends with, "It's hard to stay safe today." While that's technically true, it's not something you'd see in an email from a company trying to project a confident security image.
While it's amusing to nitpick one fake email, that's not why I did this. These are problems you can look for in any email you get. It doesn't matter if it's from a huge company or a family member.
Phishing scams, which this is, are on the rise. You'll be seeing more of them flooding your inbox. Learn more about how phishing scams work, and why it isn't just email you should worry about.