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30/05/2018: treat all messages with suspicion - a tale of two emails

Having received an email from people purporting to be Companies House, I was naturally suspicious. Firstly, I have seen such phishing attempts before, and was correctly suspicious then for similar reasons. Take a look at the screenshots below to see what has been attempted.

The first thing that made me stop and think was the email address that this came from. The real companies house has an address that is companieshouse.gov.uk. In this address, the dot before 'gov' has been replaced by a hyphen. My guess is that the scammers rely on people being too busy to notice small details like that.

Having formed suspicions over the email address, it takes only a moment to go to nominet.uk, click on the whois link and find out more about the domain. As it turned out, this email was sent on its first day of registration, the domain was only registered for a year, through GoDaddy by an organisation that could not be verified through publicly available data sources. Now, I know that our government is nothing more than a collection of crooks, but even they aren't that shabby. This is obviously a spurious domain set up just for the purpose of pretneding to be someone else.

As a matter of routine, I recommend rolling over every link and address in an email that asks you to confirm details, update your account or open a document. If there is even a flicker of doubt from one of them, then delete the message immediately.

Shortly after receiving the spurious Companies House email, I got a message from PayPal asking me to take part in their survey. There were striking similarities in that the emaiul address was attached to a domain with a hyphen in its name, survey-paypal.com, which was enough to raise suspicion. This time, being an international top level domain (.com), it was ICANN who I turned to for whois information (http://www.whois.icann.org). On this occasion, PayPal showed up as the registrant of the domain, so it looks like this one is legitimate. I still didn't take part in the survey though, as if PayPal or anyone else wants my marketing advice, they can sign a contract and pay the going rate like everyone else, but it is always interesting to have a genuine email that looks like spam rather than vice versa.

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