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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG Fake AOL e-mail billing scam reported

by Ken Newquist / September 30, 2008

First: I continue to be shocked that AOL is still around.

Second, it seems those old familiar scams continue to haunt the online service. My local newspaper has a debunking of an email billing scam in which an email claiming to be from AOL arrives in the victim's email box. It says there's a problem with their account ... and that they should immediately e-mail AOL back with their account information, bank account information, etc.

At this point, I think it's safe to say we should be highly skeptical of any incoming billing e-mail, even ones we're expecting. Phishing schemes like this play with people's expectations -- they work by getting you to see what you expect to see. That causes you to trust the e-mail, and do things like mail in your credentials. If you get an e-mail from someone like AOL, your bank, Netflix or some other company you do business with, it's always best to login to their web site directly (not through any of the links in the email). If there really is an important message or account update for you, it'll be on their web site as well as in your e-mail. If you can't find it after logging in, call the company's customer service line.

I'm willing to bet these kinds of scams -- particularly bank ones -- are going to see a surge in popularity with the recent collapse/merges of the various investment banks. People are panicky and worried, and that makes them ripe targets for fishing.