Well, this is new.
Here’s the spam email text:
New York State — Department of Motor Vehicles
UNIFORM TRAFFIC TICKET (ID:342501),
NEW YORK STATE POLICE
Local Police Code 8
THE PERSON DESCRIBED ABOVE IS CHARGED AS FOLLOWS
Time: 7:25 AM
Date of Offense: 07/02/2011
IN VIOLATION OF NYS V AND T LAW
443 Description of Violation
SPEED OVER 55 ZONE
TO PLEAD, PRINT OUT THE ENCLOSED TICKET AND SEND IT TO TOWN COURT, CHATAM HALL., PO BOX 117
And there’s an attachment to download.
Uh, yeah, OK. Sure I’ll download that… when monkeys fly out of my butt. And not just any monkeys. The Monkees.
Let’s go over the basics. How do we know this is spam? (Or a “phishing” attempt?)
1. No real identifying information (traffic tickets would have at least a Vehicle tag number!)
2. Traffic tickets are sent in snail mail (real U.S. Postal Mail Service).
3. No full official-looking address to send a ticket to. The real traffic cops want their money. They wouldn’t make you go hunting for the address.
And the kicker:
4. Attachments. Never download an attachment in an email without checking with the sender first. I don’t care if the email is from your mother. Double-check with her over the phone if she sends you something. Seriously. Don’t do it. If you are REALLY SUPER SURE you need to download an attachment AND YOU WERE EXPECTING TO RECEIVE ONE, then you can download at your own risk. AND NEVER EVER RUN AN .EXE THAT CAME IN AN ATTACHMENT IN EMAIL. EVER.
I don’t think many people will be fooled by this particular spam, obviously. But people need to learn to use email safely. It’s easy to mindlessly click on attachments.
My rule is this: never click on them. Don’t download them. If you need something for work, just stick the email in a folder and save it there. You don’t have to download the attachment unless you want to print out the document.
This spam email’s purpose is to get people to download the attachment and run whatever .exe virus it has in it. Computer viruses do much damage, all different kinds, and can run in the background without you even knowing it (by the way, if your computer is running slowly, have it checked for virus). If you keep a general healthy suspicion about email attachments, you should be able to avoid most viruses. (Some viruses run upon opening the email. You can change your email settings to warn you if some program is trying to run on your machine. Always say no if a warning window comes up, unless you know what you’re doing. The important programs, like updates, will run again sometime in the future, so you won’t miss your chance if you say “no” while you’re opening email).
If you’ve downloaded this attachment, update your virus protection software immediately and run a systems check from that software. Go through this weekly. Keep an extra special eye on your social media and email accounts. Consider sending a warning message to contacts that says “Don’t open any attachments from me in this next week. My machine may have a virus on it.”