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Warning issued – Identifying false emails from online shopping

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ECC-Net.jpgThe European Consumer Centre – Malta (ECC) would like to draw the attention of consumers towards the identification of false e-mails when shopping online, in particular through ‘eBay’. These false e-mails, commonly known as “spoof e-mails” (also fake, hoax or phisher), fake the appearance of a popular website or company in an attempt to deceive consumers. These e-mails aim to tempt unsuspecting recipients to reply or to follow a provided link to provide confidential information.

A spoof e-mail can be recognised from various characteristics, namely the e-mail will use the terms, department names and may also include the logo of a popular website or company; will usually have a generic greeting such as “Attention eBay member”; and, will insist on quick action from the consumer with threats of account suspension, requests to provide personal information, password verification or confirmation of account information. Another characteristic that an e-mail is not legitimate may be that the e-mail contains links to web pages that look exactly like eBay sign-in pages. Such e-mails are normally received from a forged eBay address.

In order to avoid being misled into any fraudulent transactions a number of precautions can be taken.

First and foremost, never send personal, particularly financial, information using e-mail. If for instance, eBay requires any personal information, a copy of the e-mail will be in the ‘My Messages’ box in ‘My eBay’ (for further information one can follow the ‘Using My Messages’ link).

Furthermore an e-mail message from eBay will never contain a request to enter information on a page that cannot be accessed from an eBay site; if an eBay e-mail message provides a direct link to an eBay page it will never ask for personal or confidential information (eBay advises to avoid clicking links; if you receive an e-mail containing a link, copy the address and paste it into the address or location area of the web browser instead of clicking the link); an e-mail message from eBay will not include attachments.

A legitimate website will never ask a potential consumer to send any confidential information such as passwords or credit card numbers. It is also important not to reply to an e-mail if you are unsure of its origin and not to click on a link in any such e-mail, especially if the e-mail asks for personal financial information.

It is very important to check the origins of e-mails which do not conform to the above characteristics. eBay have a mechanism where such e-mails can be reported, thus when in doubt as to whether an e-mail originated from eBay, report it immediately to the following e-mail addresses: spoof@ebay.co.uk or spoof@ebay.ie without adding any attachments, text or altering text.

It is also important to monitor your eBay account for suspicious activities. For further reading on how to identify spoof e-mail and websites, review the safety tips listed on eBay’s safety centre.

The European Consumer Centre advises to take all necessary precautions before deciding whether to go ahead with a purchase.

For more information contact the ECC Malta on ecc.malta@gov.mt.

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