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by Ray Carlson

Q: I sent hundreds of email messages to people I don't know asking them to check their bank account. Why?

A: We recently received this question from three people. Most likely you each downloaded malware. You indicated that you received a message allegedly from your email provider saying you received bogus email and suggesting clicking to get details. Clicking on that address resulted in downloading malware to your email account.

That malware sends out phishing messages to addresses it provides. The message tells the receiver there is a problem with their bank account and asks them to respond. If they respond, they are asked to provide verifying information about their account. If you receive such a message from your email provider, do not click for more information, and, if you receive the message about your bank account, do not respond with personal information.

If you realize you sent such messages, change the password for your email account. Secondly, check your account information because sometimes the malware will change the secondary email address you included when you registered. Criminal companies use this process since email providers usually block addresses once a phishing message is reported. By using a large number of email addresses, they can get the phishing messages distributed before addresses are blocked.

If you receive a notice that your address has been blocked by an email provider, you can change your email address and notify your normal correspondents about the change. The other choice is to respond to the provider(s) blocking you. Those providers will require additional information to insure you have resolved the problem. In addition, copy the full header from one of the messages you sent and send it to your provider. That header should identify the true source of the message. There is an ongoing competition between the criminals looking for new ways to send these messages and the providers seeking to block them.

Check this page about Gmail Account Recovery for more information.

Published: Courier 8/17/14 - Page 1D