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Gone Phishing: Why eBay Emails Can Be Hard to Trust

by DJ Waldow  |  
July 27, 2010

I'll never forget my first purchase on eBay. In 1999, I bought a 7-wood golf club in hopes that it would improve my game. No such luck. It turns out that when you are a mediocre golfer, the club doesn't matter that much.

But anyway...

Did I mention the year was 1999? Think back a bit. Wikipedia was just getting started. Blogs were in their infancy. Email and email marketing were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, MySpace, etc.—not even thought up yet.

Fast-forward 11 years to 2010: I attempt to login to my eBay account for the first time in nearly eight months and receive a message that my account has been blocked; I call the eBay support number so kindly supplied, and speak with an extremely helpful gentleman who tells me that my account was locked due to "suspicious activity"; he goes on to explain phishing scams to me.

(More on phishing: the best video definition, in under three minutes, from Common Craft.) 

Fair enough. I actually appreciated that eBay was looking out for me. eBay reset my account and sent me an email. Life was back to good again... until I actually saw the email:

What eBay Did Wrong

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DJ Waldow is an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, founder and CEO of Waldow Social, and co-author of The Rebel's Guide to Email Marketing.

Twitter: @djwaldow

LinkedIn: DJ Waldow

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  • by Julie Tue Jul 27, 2010 via web


    I had a payroll service that would send every payroll reminder email and confirmation email with the name of the service as the sender.

    However, for year-end, they sent an email from some other 'name' which I didn't recognize, with an ambiguous subject line. I receive so much email, that I never noticed it and never opened it, so I also didn't fund my payroll account for year-end processing!

    As a result, I had overdraft charges, although the year-end processing fees were covered by my bank. It doesn't stop there, however.

    I still was unaware of the fact that the charges were legitimate -- I thought my bank account security had been compromised. Why? Because when they debited my account, it was also under an indistinguishable name, and the bank couldn't tell me anything about the originator. So, I contested the debit as fraud, and only found out that it wasn't during the fraud investigation from the bank. How hard would it have been to use the same terminology for the bank debit that they used all year?

    After much headache in attempting to resolve the issue without being charged excessive fees from my payroll service, I canceled my service.

    This all could have been avoided had they used their company name as the 'from' on the email. I even gave them this feedback, but they never made any changes to their system.

    I had a bad enough experience trying to resolve the issue that I also provided feedback about their company on every single rating site I could find.

  • by DJ Waldow Thu Jul 29, 2010 via web

    Julie -

    Thanks so much for your comments. What a crazy story! Wow. I just read again for the 4th time. Wild stuff. Amazing the power of a from name and subject line in an email, huh?

    Thanks again for taking the time to share.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

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