This AT&T sales email looks like a phishing scam, but sadly it's real

Summary:I can't tell you whether this is just a problem in central Florida or if AT&T everywhere has these professionalism issues, but it's getting old.

Back when landlines were all the rage, I was a loyal AT&T customer. My landlines gave me crystal clear sound and they were essentially problem free. By contrast, I wasn't much of a fan of Verizon because I had all sorts of problems with them getting commercial broadband run into my apartment.

Today, however, I'm finding myself very happy with Verizon's cellular service and continually baffled by the lack of professionalism I see from our local AT&T service. Back in May, I wrote about the stank wafting out of my local AT&T store .

A few years earlier, I wrote about the absolutely non-existent AT&T cell service at my new house, and my need to spend hundreds of dollars and an extra kick-you-in-the-pants $20 a month for an AT&T Microcell to compensate for their lack of infrastructure.

In both of these cases, I got calls from AT&T management shortly after running the articles. In the first case, I was told AT&T would investigate and got a quote for use in the article. In the second, a message was left on my voicemail telling me that AT&T wanted to help, but repeated calls to the number left resulted in no response.

Even my one remaining AT&T landline is pretty sad. A few months ago, I was forced to move my webcasts onto Skype and off the landline (which I'd leased for the very purpose of those webcasts) because the noise on the line was unbearable. But the last AT&T technician who came to the house so damaged the existing attic wiring that I had to have a friendly electrician come back in and run a fresh set of wires from the D-Mark and undo the damage the AT&T tech had done.

With all that, I have to say I was surprised when I got an email from my local AT&T rep claiming, well, rather than tell you, I'll show you:

Capture1

Now, tell me this: does that look like an official email subject line from a top corporation? The sender can't even seem to capitalize the letters of her company in the subject.

Yeah, I thought it was a phishing email, too. I was curious, though, and examined the header before opening the mail and it did, in fact, originate from an AT&T server. So I opened it.

It was from my local rep. But it looked for all the world like a terribly composed phishing letter, all the way down to the highlights and the once-again de-capitalized AT&T name in the body of the letter.

capture 2

I don't mean to pick on this one rep (which is why I'm not showing her name). But these incidents are why consumers and businesses just don't like dealing with carriers. In addition to all the fees, penalties, and hoop jumping carriers require of us telecommunications users, they just can't seem to care enough to do their job with all that much professionalism.

I know this may seem like I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but this sort of thing is getting old. Large carriers have near monopolies with their customers and in return for using the citizen-provided public airwaves (since we the people are the true owners of the signal space), we have the right to demand quality, professionalism, and good service.

This is important because of how we teach people to watch out for phishing scams. We instruct users to look for the errors and mistakes in a message that indicate that it might not have originated with a legitimate sender. But then we get critically important, legitimate emails (or even sales emails like this) from our own vendors that look like they were written by a teenager in Belarus. If our vendors can't maintain a level of professionalism in their communication, it makes the problem all that much worse.

Oh, and I probably shouldn't have shown you any of this, because at the very bottom of the email was this little note:

capture 3

Really? You put that at the bottom of a sales pitch? Does that mean I can't show it to my co-workers or my supervisor or anyone else? Are you saying if I even open it, I'm in violation of some obscure AT&T rule?

Just... sigh. It's AT&T. Or make that at&t since each of these encounters seems to diminish the company in my eyes, bit by bit.

So is this a problem everywhere? Have you noticed these professionalism issues with AT&T in your area, or is it just central Florida?

Topics: AT&T, Security

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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