Scam Alert: If It's Misspelled, Is It From a Scammer?

The following is a guest post by Sid Kirchheimer:

Scammers have never been known for their spelling ability. And a glance at your email inbox might provide the most recent evidence.

Maybe you received mail in the last week claiming to be from - but spelled "Wallmart." That phony confirmation for a $900 TV purchase is actually a ruse intended to trick you into disclosing personal information, Walmart officials warn. (And this week, a similar fake - albeit, properly spelled - claims to come from Amazon, for the same bogus purchase.)

You may also have received mail that purports to be from Skype, mispelling-ly promising you could "recieve" a "Life Long" Skype Premium Upgrade for free. All you have to do is enter your Skype login and password at a website that in fact is run by the scammers and infects your computer with malware.

And last week's bogus PayPal email, asking you to confirm the credit card linked to your PayPal account, began with "Dear PayPal Costmuer." As if misspelling "customer" isn't enough of a clue, you should know that legit PayPal emails are addressed to you using your name.

Are scammers really that bad at spelling? Indeed, many are foreigners whose strong suit isn't English. But they're at the top of their class when it comes to adapting to the times. The cyber-crooks sometimes purposely misspell certain words to increase the chance of drawing you in.

For instance, scammers have ways of making their sites show high up in online search results and they count on you not to read the addresses closely. A website that ends in ".cm"? You may read it as the familiar ".com" but in fact ".cm" is the code for Cameroon. Click on that link and you're going to end up halfway around the world at a site run by who knows who.

And knowing that email spam filters are always improving, cyber-crooks come up with their own spellings to increase the chance their communications slip through.

One of the oldest tricks in this book is to use the number "0" for the letter "o" - as in "free m0rtgage qu0tes." Say yes to this offer and you're going to find yourself in tr0uble.

So, all the more reason to play copy editor, and read carefully, before you ever click on a link in an email or reply with sensitive information - not only with emails but the ever-growing threat from search engine results.

Dave Dugdale/flickr

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