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Also see: anti-virus measures
This item is a special feature of the ROGUES GALLERY OF SUSPICIOUS E-MAILS
Messages apparently from Microsoft should be considered with caution!
You receive a message from Microsoft Security and it has warnings about viruses, and it looks quite official. So, shouldn't you take their advice and run the attachment?! NO! DON'T DO IT! I can tell you now that this type of thing is not usually from Microsoft themselves but from various impersonators! Here's an example of the sort of thing:
----- Original Message -----
Don't be fooled by this! For one thing, Microsoft doesn't send spam to loads of random e-mail addresses. Messages that were from the actual Microsoft would have your personalised contact in. There are also linguistic clues in the letter, but the real giveaway clue is that Microsoft would not ask you to run a .EXE file in an e-mail attachment!
Special points of guilt and innocence on this: I know a lot of us aren't happy with Microsoft because they're trying to take over the world and/or because we don't think the software is very good, but on this "Microsoft message" here, Microsoft is NOT GUILTY! So, don't blame them! Also, curious as it may seem, if you catch the person who sent you the message, they are innocent too! In fact, if you have been conned by the message and run the attachment you'd now be an inadvertent sender of such messages as your computer would be infected with a virus which would use your contact list and send the message to all the people in your address book!
What to do about this if you receive such a message: Forward a copy to Microsoft at a generic Microsoft e-mail address, then have a look at "properties" and "details" and find out who actually sent you the message. This will almost certainly be some unsuspecting person who has been caught out by the trick. Write a polite e-mail to this person telling them that their computer has caught a virus because they ran an attachment in a bogus e-mail pretending to be from Microsoft. They'll probably thank you for it and forward a note on to whoever sent them the hoax message too!
But what about the GENERAL CASE? How can you tell if any message is or is not genuine? One of the easiest ways is to copy unique-looking bits of the message into a search engine and see if anyone has written about it being a hoax. A cleverer approach is to look at who the message appears to be from and then contact them by a method other than those described in the message. Ideally, when making your mind up about the truth or falsehood of things, get several independent sources of information about them.
Also see: anti-virus measures
Also see the Yahoo Games Screensaver message
News 2003/09: Another Microsoft Hoax! See Microsoft Cumulative Patch
News 2004/01: Yet Another! See Windows XP Service Pack 1 (Express) - Critical Update.
Interesting News 2008/10: Antivirus software sometimes doesn't spot these things! See Steve Lipner says "Dear Microsoft Customer"...