PC Doctor November 15, 2022

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Cartoon tablet, laptop and cellphone to accompany the news item.

Dear PC Doctor:

I get a lot of junk emails. I usually mark them as spam to train my email account to send them directly to my spam folder. Recently, though, new junk mail is coming through that says it’s from me! When I check mail on my phone in the app, my name is listed as the sender. When I check on my computer, the sender is different, but the “from” address is my address. What is happening? Do I need to change my password? If I train my email account to see these as spam, what happens?

Thank you,

Dear Phil:

What you’re experiencing is called “spoofing.” Essentially, the sender has put whatever address they want in the “from” field. This is done in the hopes that you’ll end up sharing some of your personal information or payment methods. It is very possible that they did not hack your account to get your email address. Addresses can be gleaned from all over the web - Public postings, emails forwarded by friends without removing your email address, less-than-reputable companies, some kinds of bulletin board postings, and more.

I called my email provider to ask for some advice on this. More than likely you are just the victim of a mass email scam, targeting random addresses, and you are not actually hacked. One way to check is to look in your sent folder. If you do not see unfamiliar messages that you did not write, the spoofer probably does not have access to your account.

When you get a spoofed message from yourself, don’t click any attachments or links and don’t pay any demanded ransom. Don’t reply. Just mark it as spam or junk, or delete it. Because it isn’t really from your address, you shouldn’t have to worry about your actual address getting marked as spam. However, you can test this by sending yourself an email message afterwards and seeing if it gets delivered to your inbox.

If you’re afraid your accounts have been compromised, change your passwords.

Until next time,
Happy computing!
PC Doctor

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