Suspicious Email With Attachments

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How not to do customer service

Small business owners sink or swim on customer service. For larger businesses, their relationship to government entities is often more important.

As someone who has worked in computer security, there is a long standing rule that you should never click on emails with suspicious attachements. Viruses and malware can be placed in ZIP, EXE, DOC and XLS files that will permanently harm your computer or compromise your private information or your very identity.

Yesterday I happened to be in a Verizon store getting very poor customer service. Today I received the following email:

Verizon email
Email text: Thank you for your continued loyalty to Verizon Wireless. This email is to notify you of certain changes that occurred on your company’s account(s) or profile.Attached is a list of all changes that occurred for the day. If you or someone from your company did not request these changes, please contact us immediately tool free at 800-922-0204, or *611 from any Verizon Wireless phone. Business Customer Service is available to assist with your wireless needs from 8am to 9pm Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.Thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.

The email came with an attachment, CPNI.xls

Verizon CPNI.xls attachment

Never, click on an unsolicited attachment in an email like this. This communication has all the red flags you should be looking for. Even on Verizon’s website they warn how to recognize fraudulent emails., including generic greetings and a false sense of urgency. Normally I would have simply deleted this email, but I was afraid that the sales person had, indeed, changed something on my account which I was going to be billed for, so I called Verizon (not the number in the potentially fraudulent email, but the number I had on record for the company).

I was shocked to learn that it was a legitimate email!

Why would a company like Verizon break all the rules for non-fraudulent emails? Why send such a generic easily copyable letter? Why stuff the important data I am supposed to look at in an Excel XLS file? What are customers supposed to do that don’t have spreadsheet software? After verifying that the email was genuine I tried to open it and found that it was a malformed XLS file that they had attached:

Verizon malformed XLS file

Verizon file warning

Verizon Excel warning

No company should have such poor customer service. When legitimate emails look like malicious viruses which aren’t even trying to conceal themselves it makes it much more difficult to know what is legitimate and what is not.

My Verizon customer service representative said that he had never had any complaints about this practice and did not expect anything to change.

If you have received a similar email, take the time to contact Verizon and let them know this is a terrible practice.

Follow David John Marotta:

President, CFP®, AIF®, AAMS®

David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.