Let an English teacher show you how not to get hacked or phished

I hate it when people think you are so stupid as to fall for fake emails telling you to give them your account details. Got TWO of these this morning. They make my blood boil.

First off, many companies (Paypal is one of them) ALWAYS use your first and last name in correspondence with you. So someone addressing you as ‘Dear user’ or nothing is often a tip-off. Not always, but that is generally the thing I look at second, after I have checked the originating email address.

Look at this dreadful example of an attempt to get my account details. Honestly – they didn’t even try!


  1. The mail does not come from Apple, and originates from Poland. Apple would always send mails from an apple account, ending in .com
  2. Incorrect tone and register – the writer uses contractions (you’ll, it’s), which native English speakers do not do in formal correspondence.
  3. Badly written with no capitalisation, periods in the wrong places, incorrect sentence structure.
  4. The valediction (‘yours sincerely’) with no capitalisation of ‘Yours’ and in the wrong place.
  5. Ending in ‘thanks’ – no capital letter. In formal correspondence, if you have ‘Yours sincerely’ you would not then add ‘thanks’ after it.

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Then, if you hover your cursor over the link they give you, you can see it is not the one it purports to be but something in Africa.

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Okay, now below is an email from Apple. It does not look much different in layout but you can see it:

  1. Comes from an apple.com address
  2. Does not use contractions
  3. Uses correct grammar and sentence structure
  4. Has a physical address below the email
  5. Uses the word please several times

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Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. Really great post Janet … This is sooo useful – I have to teach my students about phishing and pharming for their ICT and internet safety classes and yet they STILL occasionally get caught outl!

    There was a really tricksy one a couple of years ago purportedly from FedEx which came into my work email and if you clicked the link it went straight to authorising a PayPal payment – even I nearly got caught by that one!

    btw – from pedant to pedant …. ‘Yours sincerely’ = valdediction … 😉

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