Email Phishing Scam
Home ScamsPhishing Scams AOL Update Billing Information Phishing Scam

AOL Update Billing Information Phishing Scam

by Brett M. Christensen

Outline

Email, purporting to be from AOL, claims that, due to a payment processing failure, the recipient’s AOL service will be blocked unless he or she updates payment details within 24 hours by following a link in the message. 

Brief Analysis

The email is not from AOL. In fact, the message is a phishing scam designed to trick recipients into providing private financial and personal information to Internet criminals.

Example

Subject: Your AOL account will be blocked

Billing Information

Dear Valued AOL Member,

It has come to our attension that your AOL records information are out of date . We were unable to process your most recent payment.

Did you recently change your bank, phone number or credit card ? To ensure that your service will not be interrupted, please update your billing information NOW by visiting the new AOL small business system .

[Link to bogus website removed]

PLEASE , NOTE THAT FAILURE TO VERIFY YOUR RECORDS WILL RESULT IN ACCOUNT SUSPENSION .

Sincerely, AOL Member Services Team P.S. The link in this massage will be expired within 24 Hours . You have to update your payment information before that time .

AOL Phishing Scam Email

 

Detailed Analysis

This email, which purports to be from Internet service provider AOL, claims that the recipient’s AOL account is about to be blocked due to a payment processing problem.

The email claims that the customer’s billing information appears to be out of date, and he or she is required to update this information within 24 hours. The recipient is urged to click a link in the email in order to visit the AOL website and supply the requested information. 
However, the email is not from AOL and the claim that the recipient must update information or risk the blocking of his or her account is a lie. In fact, the email is a phishing scam designed to steal personal and financial information from AOL customers. Those who follow the link in the message will be taken to a bogus website that asks for information such as credit card numbers, banking details and name, contact and address details. Any information entered into the form on the bogus website can be collected by Internet criminals and used to commit credit card and other financial fraud and identity theft.

In order to fool victims into believing that the claims in the message are genuine, the bogus website is designed to closely resemble a legitimate AOL billing page. As the above screenshot illustrates, the scam email itself is also designed to appear like a legitimate AOL message and includes seemingly genuine AOL graphics, logos and copyright notices.

Phishing scammers often steal copies of the targeted company’s graphics and logos from its genuine website for use on their fake websites and in their scam emails. They also use the same fonts, formatting styles and colours that the targeted company uses. However, scam emails can often be identified by poor spelling and grammar (“it has come to our attension”, “link in this massage will be expired”) and an unreasonable sense of urgency.

In reality, Internet users should be very cautious of any email that claims that they must urgently provide private personal or financial information by following a link in the message or by opening an attached file. Legitimate companies or financial institutions are very unlikely to request such information via an unsolicited email. Any such request messages should be treated with suspicion.

Do not log in to your online accounts by clicking a link in an unsolicited email. It is much safer to visit your account page by entering the web address in your browser’s address bar. Moreover, when logging into your account, always ensure that the page is a secure (https) site. No legitimate service provider will ever ask for login or other personal information via an unsecure (http rather than https) webpage. If you are accessing a secure (https) page, a “lock” icon should be displayed in your browser’s status bar or in the address field.

Criminals all around the world continue to use phishing as a means of stealing money and personal information from unsuspecting Internet users. It is important that Internet users take the time to educate themselves and their friends and families about this type of scam. Such scam attempts can be quite easily recognised by Internet users who have made themselves aware of how such scams operate and know what signs to look for in possible scam emails.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer