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February 23, 2008

Privacy & Security Watch: Beware of fake emails appearing to be from a financial institution

Richard Kuper
The Kuper Report

Your money and your identity are precious to you. You money and identity are also of great value to thieves. It is important to be extra vigilant, especially in emails and on the Internet, to protect both.

At the link below, you will find an example of one such real-looking communication, but it could just as easily have been set up to look like it was from whatever bank or financial institution you do business with.

Please note that in order ensure you that you are actually going to the real HSBC website indicated below (they provided this to warn their customers about this particular scam), I have not encoded the link. Please copy it and open a *new* web browser (or new tab), and paste it into your web address bar, and press ENTER. (If you do it on the same page that you are viewing this newsletter on you will need to hit the BACK button on your browser to get back here to read the rest of this article.)

Copy and paste this link to a new web page or new tab:

As you saw if you followed the above instructions, someone was very creative and sophisticated. It looks real.

Remember that just because the text looks legitimate, if it is a live link that you can just click on, you need to verify that where the link is going is where the link claims to be going. I'll provide an example:

Click on the below link (which looks just like the link above):

Other than the fact that the above is a link you can click on (try it - it will open in a new window), you cannot tell by looking at it that it will actually go somewhere else. And if I had created a fake HSBC-looking web page and pointed the link there, you might not have noticed at all because the resulting page would have looked just like an HSBC page (instead of taking you to ThisIsMyStore.com).

Now, move your mouse over the above link and right-click. You will get a list of options, one of which is "properties". Now click on "properties" and you will see that the link will actually take you to http://ThisIsMyStore.com and not to the secure HSBC page. This is an easy way to check where a link may actually be taking you. But note that the link displayed might still look kind-of legitimate, so it is always safest to go directly to your financial institution's website by
entering the proper web address yourself.

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