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Identify Suspicious Email Messages

I have family members who are sharing concerns with me about alarming email messages they receive from time to time. They’ve even admitted interest in messages that congratulate them for winning unexpected prizes.

Oh, boy…

I’m hoping this post can help people examine these messages and avoid negative consequences. Please share or discuss this matter with your friends and loved ones who could be vulnerable to these sorts of exploits.

As a seasoned email user, I can usually spot a suspicious message quickly. Poor grammar. Choppy sentence structure. And poor quality images of company logos.

Recently, I received a phishing message that impressed me with its design. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t the usual mess, either.

Let’s examine impressive parts of the message:

  1. The message begins with a decent PayPal logo image.
  2. The overall design layout looks professional. The white message body and gray footer area are typical of professional designs.
  3. Most of the text reads fairly well, especially if you are skimming because you’re alarmed.
  4. The last paragraph encourages the reader to seek assistance by clicking Contact on PayPal web pages. This is subtle. You might drop your guard if the message clearly states you can seek assistance in a way other than clicking links inside the message.

Let’s look at the suspicious parts of the message:

  1. The “Your Payment Processed Has Been Declined” is the first indication of a bogus message.
  2. I am addressed as “Dear Client”. This is not immediately suspicious, but if you look at the footer, you’ll see that my correct email was used. If PayPal had my email, then they probably know my name and would use in the message greeting.
  3. The first paragraph has odd sentence structure.
  4. The second paragraph includes a capitalized “Please” in the middle of a sentence.
  5. The blue button reads “Review Your’s Accounts”. And it is not properly vertically centered between the paragraphs.
  6. The third and fourth paragraphs do not have white space between them like that between the first and second paragraphs.
  7. The salutation “Sincerely” seems more personal than professional given the message’s subject matter.
  8. Here’s the biggest clue for me: I don’t actually have a PayPal account.

Don’t fall for this stuff. Think twice or even three times before you take an action on a message designed to frighten you.

Add Outlook.com Email to macOS

Outlook and Settings Icons

The process to configure a connection to Outlook.com in macOS is not intuitive for whatever reason only Microsoft and Apple know. I found several outdated and unhelpful articles that had me going nowhere.

So here’s the magic solution: Use App-Specific Password. Create that first, then configure macOS.

To generate an app-specific password:

  1. Go to account.microsoft.com and log in
  2. On the Account bar (or tap Account on you mobile device), and click or tap Security & privacy.
  3. Find the link titled More security settings and click/tap it.
  4. Under App Passwords, find and click/tap Create new app password.
  5. An app password will be generated. Use this to log into Outlook.com email service from within macOS Mail.

How do you do that? This is how:

  1. In macOS Mail, click Mail in the task bar.
  2. Click Add Account…
  3. Click Other Mail Account and click Continue.
  4. Enter the Outlook.com email address and then enter the app-specific password you generated in the previous steps. Click Sign In.

After a few moments, you should be good to go.

PS: Why is it a breeze to set up an Outlook account in iOS but such a mystery in macOS?

Missing Messages in the iOS Mail App

Missing Email MessagesAre you seeing an email message in your web-based email services, but you’re not seeing it on your iPhone or iPad’s Mail app?

Well, the solution is pretty simple but kind of a pain. You’ll need to delete the troubled account on your iPhone, and then re-add it. Here’s how:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Swipe down and tap Mail.
  3. Tap Accounts.
  4. Tap the account name with which you’re having trouble. For example, Outlook or Yahoo!
  5. Find and tap Delete Account.
  6. A confirmation will pop up from below. Tap Delete Account to confirm the action.

After a moment, the account will disappear from your iPhone. Now, add that account back to the iPhone.

  1. Go back to Settings.
  2. Swipe down and tap Mail.
  3. Tap Accounts.
  4. Tap Add Account.
  5. Tap the name of the service provider.
  6. Follow the prompts. Depending on the service provider, signing into the service will differ.
  7. Once that has been completed, tap the service’s name from the Accounts list.
  8. Tap Mail Days to Sync. Choose an option that fits your needs. I generally choose No Limit, but you might not need this.

You should be good to go.

How It Works: Getting Your Email on a Wireless Device

Recently, I’ve had to explain this concept to non-technical technology users. For techies, the concept is simple and obvious. For non-techies, the concept is muddled and confusing. So if you’re a techie, then consider sharing a link to this post with the non-techies you love.

Internet Connections

Understanding the Systems Involved

The most obvious is the wireless computer or wireless device. Next, there is the wireless router. Finally, there is the email service.

The Wireless Computer

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll focus on a wireless laptop, but the concept is very similar for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

The laptop will have a user account on it. The account might be (and should be) password-protected. Once you’ve logged into the computer, you can use applications on it to write a document or access the Web or email.

The Wireless Router (WiFi)

The term “WiFi” is thrown around a lot these days, and it means wireless fidelity. In simple terms, it means the ability to have a network connection without a wired connection. In the old days, having an Internet-connected laptop in the living room meant jumping rope with a network cable. Do-able, but not fun.

The wireless router might have (and really, really should have) a password (aka, passphrase) to allow a device to connect to its wireless network. Most of the time, the wireless laptop will remember the connection after connecting previously. This is a convenience feature, but it’s important to realize that the process occurs every time the computer wakes up and accesses services on the Internet.

A couple of related facts about the wireless router: First, the router probably has ports (or connections) to allow wired devices (like a desktop computer) to connect to the router using wired technology. These devices don’t use WiFi. Second, the router may also be combined modem and router device. This just means what used to take two devices, now just takes one. Modem technology simply translates the signals that go through a cable or phone connection into standard Internet network signals that computers can understand. This is not a critical concept to understand, but now you understand a bit more when techies start throwing these terms around.

Email Service

You’ve logged into your laptop, and it has logged into your wireless network. Now you can access the services available on the Internet. Most people like to check their email accounts. Email services are accounts that require their own username and password. Just like your computer. Just like your wireless router (even if it happens in the background for your convenience). You need to log into email with a separate and different username and password. Username and password is sometimes call your login credentials. For the sake of security, your email login for email really should be different than that used for your computer or wireless network.

Besides email accounts, you may also have accounts with Amazon, your bank, or perhaps a membership organization. The concept is basically the same.

Conclusion

This blog post is meant to explain basic concepts. I can’t provide meaningful steps to regain access to an account with a forgotten password. My hope is that understanding the separate – but interplaying – systems will help you isolate where the problem actually lies.

Completely Configure Your Outlook.com Account in iOS

Outlook Logo

I recently reviewed Microsoft’s guidance for getting your Outlook.com (aka, Hotmail and Windows Live) email account. While they represent a good start, the instructions will likely leave you with some odd behavior. Granted that Apple is probably more to blame than Microsoft, I’d like to round out the instructions so you’ll have a better experience.

Here’s Microsoft’s advice:

iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch

  1. Tap Settings, and then tap Mail, Contacts, Calendar.
  2. Tap Add Account in the Accounts page.
  3. Select Hotmail.
  4. Enter your Outlook.com address and password.
  5. Select the fields that you want to sync. Tap Save.

Here’s the rest:

Outlook.com Configuration

 

  1. Return to your Outlook/Hotmail account settings (see Figure 1).
  2. Decide which services you’d like to sync with your iOS device (Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders).
  3. Tap Account.
  4. In the Description field, you can enter a name for the account. It can be anything. Keep it simple, though. “Outlook.com” or “Hotmail” or something else meaningful to you.
  5. Tap Advanced.
  6. Choose whether you want discarded messages to be deleted or archived.
  7. Tap Account in the upper left.
  8. Tap Done.
  9. Tap Mail Days to Sync.
  10. Decide how far back you wish to sync your messages. I chose No Limit, but you might have a compelling reason not to do this. If you limit the time, you might only see some messages on your iOS device. Then when you log in from a Web browser, you’ll see many more messages. This confused me the first time it happened.

Hope this helps!