The test that uncovers scam mails

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A 'pre-legal credit controller' employed by cellphone service provider Altech Autopage sent an e-mail to 45 of its subscribers earlier this month, many of them former subscribers, telling them to pay up or face the consequences.

Berlin - If you receive an email that seems dodgy, an easy trick for testing its trustworthiness is to run the screen cursor over any embedded links, according to a German computer magazine.

Doing so will usually pull up a tiny box showing the true address of the website being linked to. If it's the official website of a bank or other business, it's probably safe.

If not, it could very well be a phishing attack, in which a scam artist is trying to trick you into giving away your password and other key data. Users need to remember to only run the mouse over the link until the information box shows up.

Do not click on it yet. And look closely. Clever criminals might use a website that looks almost right, only differing from the official web address because they're using a different country code, for example. Checking the link is key, as con artists have started using increasingly more professional looking mails.

Gone are the days when such attacks could often be noticed because of their clunky-looking graphics or obvious spelling errors, reports German magazine c't Wissen. Also be wary of emails.

It's easy to spoof a sender's name. However, users can check the header - which requires different methods depending upon which programme you're using - to see information about from whom the email has been received. If a known email address comes up, it's usually safe.

If these tests don't put your mind at ease, it's best to call your bank or other institution directly to get confirmation. But make sure you pull up the phone number from the official website, not the questionable email. - Sapa-dpa

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