They Still Exist

still picture of George C. Scott and Michael Sarrazin in "The Flim-Flam Man."

The 1967 movie starred George C. Scott and Michael Sarrazin (may they both R.I.P.) and was about a confidence man who defrauded people in the South. Appropriately, it was titled “The Flim-Flam Man.” While we rarely hear the term in this computer day and age, flim-flam men (and women) still exist. In fact, they are alive and well. Let’s look at some examples:

Fake Quickbooks email

Fake email about undelivered emails

Fake ADP email.

Fake American Express email.

The four emails above are ones I received in the last two days. These are all examples of Social Engineering – real attempts to trick me into doing something stupid. In the screen captures I created, I showed part of the URL that appeared when I held my mouse over the button or link that the email tried to get me to use. (I whited-out some of the address so no one reading this post would attempt to go to the actual site.) The fact that none of the addresses in the pop-up window show legitimate web page addresses is the number one clue these emails are fake. The second tell-tale sign is that none of the four emails use my name in the salutation. They used “Dear User,” “Dear Customer,” “Dear Valued Customer,” and an email address. The final element that’s off in these engineering attempts is the “From” email address. Only the ADP email even comes close to a legitimate domain for the companies represented. I mean, think about it, would American Express be sending an email from a school in Virginia?

Since I’m pointing these things out to you, it’s easy to see these emails are fakes, isn’t it? (By the way, you can click on each email if you want to see a larger image.) Here’s the problem, though. If we fall victim to the first things we see when we get these kinds of emails, we’re in trouble. All of these emails attempt to appeal to our emotions to get us to click or tap where we should not. Generally, all four use fear in an attempt to panic us.

  • “All your payments has currently Been put on hold.” (Did I mention bad grammar and misspellings are also a clue that an email didn’t come from a legitimate company?)
  • “Your emails may be lost forever.”
  • “A temporary hold has been placed on your account.”
  • “For security reasons, payment has been placed on hold.”

(By the way, I actually have relationships with three of the four companies misrepresented in these emails.)

Moral of this post? When you receive emails that, on the surface, look real, take a deep breath and re-read them with an eye for the clues I’ve mentioned here.

4 thoughts on “They Still Exist

  1. MaryMay Suter

    I got an email yesterday from “Barnes and Noble” regarding my Pal Pal account. I supposedly ordered some Harry Potter thing for $39 that was being shipped to Massachusetts. It took over an hour with calls to Barnes and Noble, Pay Pal, and my bank. It surely was a fake. Now, it’s my job to watch my accounts carefully.

    My first inclination was to go to the link given. Thankfully, I knew to hold my cursor over the link in the email and look on the bottom to find it was going to take me. It was surely not to Pay Pal.

  2. Al C


    I get so many of these each day – not sure whether I get more calls than emails but it’s close.

    1. Al,

      Yes, the phone calls are bad, too! Unfortunately, the fact that scammers keep calling and keep sending emails is an indication that people are falling for it. If no one was tricked and the scammers weren’t making any money, they would quite. ~John

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