It seems to be happening more and more recently. People are receiving emails from people they know, but the email address doesn’t match. There is always a somewhat vague question associated with the email – “Have you seen this?” or “What do you think?” – and then a link.
Most people naturally assume that the person’s email account has been hacked. However, this is not the case. Notice that the name and email address do not match. If the account was hacked, the email would be coming from the correct address. Instead, these emails are spam. Somehow, someone accessed your friend or family member’s list of contacts and used this list to create emails that look like they came from someone trusted. This is known as Email Spoofing and is just another tactic used by spammers to mask the real origins of emails.
So how are these spammers finding your email address? It turns out that Facebook is the problem. Spammers were recently able to exploit a misconfiguration on Facebook that was fixed last week, according to Facebook.
“Recently, we discovered a single isolated campaign that was using compromised e-mail accounts to gain information scraped from Friend Lists due to a temporary misconfiguration on our site,” according to a statement from Facebook. “We have since enhanced our scraping protections to protect against this and other similar attacks and will continue to investigate this case further.”
Although spammers are no longer able to scrape new information from Facebook accounts, they still have access to the information obtained previously. This means that these spoof emails could continue for quite some time, until email providers are able to find the source of the spam and shut the spammers down.
The Moral of the Story: Be aware of vague messages and strange links. And if the “Reply To” email address doesn’t match the name, just delete the email. DO NOT OPEN THE LINK. In fact, never open a link you are unsure of.