Q: I’m having e-mail problems. Several times a day I get “mail delivery failure” notices for e-mails that I never sent. I’ve also been getting e-mails in foreign languages that I can’t read. Some of these e-mails don’t contain any message, or the attachments don’t make any sense.
Is someone using my e-mail address to send messages to other people? What should I do?
Steven Russell, Galloway, Ohio
A: It’s possible that someone has gained access to your e-mail account and is sending messages in your name. But it’s more likely that these are bogus e-mails from disreputable sources. Even the “mail delivery failure” e-mails are probably fake.
There are three things you should do immediately: Change your e-mail password to lock out anyone who might be using the account. Stop opening suspicious e-mails and attachments. Run the free version of the Malwarebytes program (tinyurl.com/jsdacdk) in case the e-mails have installed any malicious software on your computer.
If anyone is using your e-mail account, the goal would be to send junk or malicious e-mails to others using your name. The best defense against that is to create a strong new e-mail password that would be hard for anyone else to guess (see examples at tinyurl.com/y9sr6y97 and tinyurl.com/ybuojnby).
It’s common for unscrupulous people to send fake e-mails that are designed to attract attention. The senders hope that curiosity will prompt you to open an e-mail or an attachment, or to respond because you think it was sent to you by mistake.
Either response notifies the sender that your e-mail address is valid, and thus a good place to send more malicious e-mails. In addition, opening these messages makes your computer vulnerable to infection by any malware that the e-mail may carry. (For tips on how to recognize fake e-mail and other online scams, see tinyurl.com/ha6gvmt and tinyurl.com/yahgb5fd).
If an e-mail seems fake, don’t open it. Either delete it or send it to your e-mail provider’s “spam” or “junk” folder (that may help the provider block similar messages in the future.)
Q: I received pop-up messages telling me that there was a problem installing security updates for Windows 10. I used the online Microsoft Answer desk, which remotely took control of my PC to solve a problem (error 0xc1900200) with a memory partition (memory block division) on my solid state (computer-chip-based) drive. They also offered to sell me a $149 one-year service contract, but I didn’t buy it. Now my repair shop tells me the whole thing was a scam. Was it?
Mike Judd, Tucson, Ariz.
A: No. While there are many scams that purport to be online support services, the Microsoft Answer Desk (tinyurl.com/ybz55295) is legitimate, as is the Microsoft Assure support service they offered to you (see tinyurl.com/kpd644n).
But it’s worth reading Microsoft’s warning about support scams that misuse its name (see tinyurl.com/hfwj9wb). These include unsolicited bogus calls from fake support services, requests for credit card information to “validate” your copy of Windows and e-mails with fake “security update” attachments.
E-mail tech questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include name, city and telephone number.