DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - If you ever use PayPal or Ebay, then you could be vulnerable to a very sneaky scam. You’ve probably heard over and over again, don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know. But even if you are savvy to scams, there is one that may trick the best of us.
Pam Harris, a lecturer at Southern Methodist University, recently received one of those emails that made her look twice and ask if it was legitimate. It looked like a PayPal receipt.
“I thought what am I getting something from PayPal for? For 189.89?” recalls Harris.
The phony receipt had a transaction ID, shipping details and the company’s logo, as well as a link to find out more about the statement. The link is a problem.
“It says you sent a payment. I didn’t send anything,” says Harris. “I haven’t even activated anything in PayPal for 8 years.”
Fortunately, Harris hesitated before clicking to find out more about the watch the statement said she had ordered. Dr. Suku Nair, an SMU professor, says clinking on a link like the one Harris found in her email, gives hackers direct access to your computer.
“In the link it may say PayPal,” he explains. “If you click on it, it will go to that bad website.”
Cyber thieves are sending what appears to be email from big name companies to fool you. It’s not just PayPal. FedEx and Ebay also have warnings on their websites. The emails may look like invoices and ask you to log onto another site or they encourage you to print a receipt. In all cases, it’s hackers ready to invade.
“When you turn on your computer and connect to the network, within the first few minutes, you are under attack,” says Nair.
Cyber experts say do not click directly on any link in an email. Instead, retype it. Make sure you are using a phishing filter and having a phishing bar on your browser should show you if a site is good or bad.
“I triple read everything now,” pledges Harris.
Cyber thieves send out millions of emails everyday to a combination of email addresses, just hoping one is accurate. For example, the Pam Harris email was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you you’re your email, they know which one is real. So it’s best to never open these types of email in the first place.
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