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PayPal spoof site sought credit details

Bad social engineering 101

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A rather poor spam memo urging PayPal users to log into a spoof site and claim a five-dollar credit by 'updating their records' (i.e., giving up their credit-card details) appears not to have fooled many people.

As a discussion on one of eBay's forums indicates, the spam message contained far too many errors to be convincing. The hints included awkward syntax, bad punctuation, failure to include the PayPal logo in the message body and a link to a non-SSL Web page at the novel 'paypal-secure.com', which was promptly removed by its host as soon as PayPal learned of the scam.

Nevertheless it's inevitable that at least some sleepy Netizens followed the link and cooperated with the tricksters. PayPal says they've not received any complaints from the duped; but we reckoned it worth contacting paypal-secure's host to see if their logs showed any evidence that the scam had worked.

The spoof site was hosted by the EasyHosting division of Canadian outfit Look Communications. A good fifteen minutes of attempting without success to negotiate their telephone answering apparatus (fully automated for our convenience) discouraged us from this effort. We gave up, and offer our condolences to their customers.

So we don't know if anyone was in fact taken in by this ruse, but if the following spam memo seems familiar to anyone, they should contact their credit card issuer immediately.

Season's Greetings Valued PayPal Customer;

As the New Year approaches and as we all get ready to move a year ahead, PayPal would like to give you a $5 credit to your account!

All you have to do to claim your $5 gift from us is update your information on our secure Pay Pal site by January 1st, 2002. A year brings a lot of changes, by updating your information with us you will allow for us to continue providing you and our valued customer service with excellent service and in the meantime, keep our records straight!

To update your information now and to receive $5 in your PayPal account instantly, click this link:

http://www.paypal-secure.com/cgi-bin/webscr.pl?em=youremail@yourprovider.com

Thank you for using PayPal.com and helping us grow to be the largest of our kind!

Sincerely wishing you a very "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,"

PayPal Team

One shudders to think how well this scam might have worked if our tricksters had only mastered that ubiquitous English dialect known as commercialese. ®

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