Today’s Phishing Report: Knowing the All-Important Hover Function

Janie Clark and Stacey Cook write to tell me that my HDTV order has shipped.

But — oh no! — they went and shipped my HDTV (I want my HDTV!) to the wrong addresses (499 S paolo St, Appartments [sic] 5B ,S Maria, DC [sic]/ United States and 259 11th Dr [sic] , App. 2A / S Paolo, WA [sic]/ United States). And Janie and Stacey have weird email addresses ( and, respectively)

And — oh no oh no oh no! — come to think of it, I didn’t even order an HDTV. What to do?

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If I’m not smart, I’ll trust these emails to be what they purport to be, and I’ll dig a little deeper into them, i.e., I’ll click on the links in the emails.

The problem with doing that is that every link in these emails — every single one — is disguised, so that each link in these emails — every single one — will, if I click on it, take me to a place to which I do not wish to be taken. In this particular instance, the Janie email wants to take me to a website called and Stacey’s email wants to take me to a website called — even though the emails make it look like the links will take me to Amazon’s website, at

No good, no doubt, awaits those who go to or

Don’t go there!

If you did — if you did click on one of the links that look to be a link to, you would instead be linked to or, and then the scoundrels running those sites would know who you are — at least a little bit. At minimum, they’ll know where you are located on the Internet (because, to serve up the web page that you’d be looking at on your computer, they have to send the information about what the web page looks like, etc., to you, so they would know your address on the Internet). And, then, once you’re on their scoundrel-site, all sorts of other evil things could befall you and your computer.

Don’t go there!

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So how do I know this? How do I know that the links inside these phishing expedition emails will take me to a place at which I don’t want to be?

To know this, I simply used the very lovely “hover” function that’s built into most email readers. Take the Thunderbird email reader, for instance, which I use for retrieving and then reading email sent to my non-business email accounts (which tend to be spammed more than my business accounts because I’ve been vewwwwry careful about keeping my business email accounts as pristine as possible — a topic for another posting — and less careful about the non-business accounts).

To hover in Thunderbird I simply place — hover — the mouse pointer (that’s the pointer I move around by moving the mouse around) on top of the link, but without clicking the mouse. Above all, when you hover you must not click.

When I do this, the actual destination of the link shows up in the left-most part of Thunderbird’s status bar — that’s the area at the bottom of the window in which I have TBird loaded. So when I hover over a link, I look in the bottom left hand corner of the window inside of which I’m reading email, and, lo’ and behold, thar she blows — there I see the Internet address to which I’ll be transported if I were to click on the link over which I am hovering. Cool, eh?

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Email clients vary about how this works and what shows where. On the email client that Apple builds into iPads, iPods, iPhones, etc. (I think it’s called Mail), for instance, you do the same thing by holding your finger down on top of the link, for a few seconds, at which point a notification will scroll up from the bottom showing you where the link will take you, and giving you a few choices about what to do with the link (open it, copy it, etc.).

If you do this on your iWhatever, and you then see a link to some unfamiliar place, just lift up your finger and go look at something else; you will have successfully avoided being phished.

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To protect yourself online, please know the hover function of the program in which you read email, and, if you ever see an email from someone you don’t know or from a business with which you didn’t biz, you are, for-pretty-sure, being phished, and you should, at-most, use the hover function to smarten yourself up about how some scoundrels out there are trying to hurt you.

And do stay away from San Paolo, DC, United States. It t’ain’t safe there.


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