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Innovation

Microsoft admits it can't stop scammers fooling you with their latest tricks

The scammers are, apparently, just too good.
chris-matyszczyk
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
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Someone, somewhere is trying to scam you.

I'm a folder-emptier.

I don't like little red circles on my iPhone and I never leave an unread email in my Hotmail inbox.

Lately, though, more and more strange things have been appearing.

Junky, phishy, evil-minded emails trying to bait me into submission. 

This led me to pay extra attention to my junk mail -- largely because, ironically, legitimate emails sometimes end up there.

But let's focus on the phishy and the evil-minded that appear in both my junk mail and my inbox. Sometimes, they're the very same emails, one day after another.

Often misspelled and written in strange typefaces, they sometimes even claim they're from, oh, Microsoft.

But I've been noticing some disturbing and changing patterns.

My Company Is Taking The Trouble To Help You.

One was the increasing plethora of junk that creeps into my inbox from apparently real companies. ADT Security, LeafFilter, HelloFresh, Sono Bello Body Contouring ("One Day Fat Removal") and American Home Warranty are names that seem to waft in daily.

And what messages. From the alleged American Home Warranty: "Will take the trouble of repairing your house -- info here!"

You'll take the trouble? How kind. But when there's an exclamation point, you've lost me, fake or not.

I've never had dealings with any of these companies. No, not even for body contouring. Yet here they are, always the same companies. Why?

Of course there are still the more typical, supposedly personal attempts to offer me money. Even these now creep through to my inbox more often.

Sample headline from Noemie Raphael: "My support." Her message began: "Hello, I'm Mrs. Noemie Ethan Raphael, married to the late Mr. Ethan Raphael, who was a businessman and a politician here. Before he passed on we deposited the sum of $4.6 million dollars in one of the leading banks here."

Equally ludicrous, but relatively new to me -- were the emails from Kristalina of the International Monetary Fund offering me a grant, and from Christopher A. Wray -- a familiar name.

The latter offered a double bluff: "After proper and several investigations by the Western Union, Money Gram, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and United Nations (UN) Offices we found your name amongst those that have sent money through Western Union, Cash App, Zelle, Venmo, Bank Transfer/Deposit and Money Gram in the course of receiving your Inheritance, Lottery, United Nation [sic] compensation funds which proves that you have truly been swindled by those unscrupulous persons by sending money to them through the above mentioned means."

Swindled, eh? Truly?

They're still doing it and this one is so blessedly all-encompassing. It must still be fooling somebody.

My Business Would Like To Do Business With Your Business.

Recently, though, a new trope has appeared. New to me, at least.

This has a more insidious subject line strategy. It purports to be from a company that wants to buy my products or from which I've supposedly bought products.

"New Order," is one frequent headline. Or even "Invoice Enclosed."

You may think you could easily spot these.

I can imagine that these sorts of despicable things might tempt small business owners who are harassed, stressed by inflation, and managing on a bare minimum of staff.

One careless eye, one inattentive moment, and the small business owner, or their lone, inexperienced assistant, might just get caught up in the promise of more revenue from some far-off place.

The problem now is that sometimes even these emails are now appearing in my inbox, and no matter how many times I mark them as phishing, still they come. (While emails from PR companies most often appear in junk.)

We Try, But We Can't Stop It.

Email is, by its very nature, a medium that constantly assaults your attention, so it's easy to open such emails automatically and even respond to them without sufficient thought.

I did it once, many years ago -- I clicked on the link even. I was very, very lucky that it seemed to cause no subsequent damage.

I asked Microsoft why the company is still unable to make sure that all this sort of stuff goes straight to junk. Especially as more and more of it now appears in my regular inbox. 

A company spokesman explained that you can customize your junk folder. You can more aggressively filter your junk mail -- the default is set for "No Automatic Filtering."

Ultimately, though, defeat always lurks, even in your inbox.

Microsoft's spokesperson explained: "Like all email services, Hotmail and Outlook (for both consumer or commercial work accounts) have spam filters to block unsolicited spam email. They can block a lot of spam but can't block it all as spammers are continuously changing tactics."

It's a touch disspiriting that the scammers are somehow more adept than Microsoft's finest talents.

The lay person might be reasonable in asking one question.

If tech companies have now become so adept at stalking us and knowing our every word and movement, why is it still hard for them to completely throttle scammy emails?

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