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Questionable Email: Trust Your Instinct

Posted by Peter Post  January 7, 2014 07:00 AM

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I received an email today from an old colleague. The message read:

I stumbled unto (a misspelling in the message) this very interesting and educative article on wealth management and decided to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it

Click Here

WARM REGARDS / HAPPY NEW YEAR


FYI: The “Click Here” was a URL link that I have deleted from this blog post.

The email really seemed like it came from the colleague. I even noticed that the signature was her complete signature block.

Although it seemed legitimate, I thought it strange that she was writing to me, as I hadn’t communicated with her for a couple of years.

So, I read it and reread it and began to get more suspicious. I was bcc’d (blind carbon copied). Perhaps she had sent it to a number of people and wanted to avoid sharing everyone’s email addresses with each other—normally a considerate thing to do when emailing a group of people who may not know each other. Still, the bcc gave me pause to look more closely.

Then I noticed that the email not only came from her, but the TO address appeared to be a second email address of hers. Why would she send an email to herself? While I realize people who send a bcc email will often fill the TO field with their own address, I still got more suspicious.

And then I began to wonder about the content of the message: “unto this very interesting and educative article on wealth management” that she wanted to share with me. That didn’t make sense. Our relationship was based on etiquette work.

Trust your instinct. Don’t open email attachments unless you are sure they come from someone you know and that it is logical that the person really sent the email to you. Not sure? Send the email back to the person and ask him if he really sent it to you. I did.

I heard back from her very quickly: ‘Thanks for your caution and you were correct, I didn't send it. We think it was a hacker.”

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."

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