The Email Scam That Nearly Worked On Me
It’s easy for scammers to impersonate real companies — because real companies often behave like scam artists
Two days ago I received an email that appeared to be from Norton, the makers of antivirus software.
The email said they’d just charged me a ton of money on autopay. A screenshot …
As you can probably suspect, it was a scam. If you call that number, you get connected to a call-center where they pretend to be Norton; they explain they’d be happy to issue a refund … if you give them your bank info or credit card details. Then they use your bank info to ring up charges, or flat-out pilfer money. Snopes has a good writeup on this type of digital highwayman activity.
I pretty quickly figured out, all on my own, that it was a scam. One clue was that it came from a gmail address. Another was the open invocation to “call us for a refund” — with REFUND in big bold letters — and the oddly formatted phone number. It is dangerous to try and detect scams merely by looking for poor formatting, because scammers are getting better at cribbing the HTML/CSS of real companies; scams increasingly look graphically indistinguishable from official corporate communications.
But in this case, these “tells” were amateurish enough that it pinged my radar. I googled the phone number, quickly found the Snopes article, and the jig was up. A scam!
The thing is, for about five minutes I was seriously worried that Norton really had billed me for $433 worth of services I hadn’t ordered. I was low-key flipping out.
Because getting this sort of email is quite realistic. Plenty of companies do this all the time. They auto-charge us for stuff — even if we’ve told them to stop services.
I used to use Norton years ago, on an older Windows computer. I unsubscribed from the service…