That child sex predator email is most likely a phishing attack

Rule number one for email security: Do not let your emotions trump your common sense.

When you receive an email claiming that a child sexual predator is living in your neighborhood it’s easy to be alarmed and click on a link that common sense dictates you shouldn’t click on. A new phishing scam in circulation is counting on your emotions to win and enable attackers to compromise your PC with malware.

I wrote a blog post about the scam:

Cyber criminals are always looking for vulnerabilities, and in this case, it’s parental instinct. A new phishing scam is disguised as an alert to child sexual predators.

The scam email looks like a warning for parents about a known predator who moved into their ZIP code area. In a blog post by IT security company KnowBe4, CEO Stu Sjouwerman exclaimed, “just when you think phishing criminals cannot sink any further, you get confronted with a ‘new low.’”

What was really interesting to me is that I received two emails back to back: One was from KnowBe4 PR contacting me about this story, and the one immediately afterward was one of the phishing emails Sjouwerman described.

It appeared to be from “Family Safety Notice_Kids*Live*Safe, and the subject line was: “Public Notice, A Sex Offender Alert For Your Area.” The message itself was relatively brief and to the point. It just stated that a child predator may reside in our neighborhood, and provided a link to check for child predators in our area. It was signed by Paul Johnson, “Child Safety-Officer.” Seems legit.

Normally this is where I would advise people to hover the mouse cursor over the URL in the email to see where it really goes. In this case, the link seems to go to the URL displayed—a neat trick for a phishing scam. Even though the URL is unknown, it seems to be related to the subject matter, and the fact that it doesn’t appear to redirect to some obviously shady URL gives it an air of credibility.

According to Sjouwerman, if you click that link you will be redirected through several sites, and eventually end up at Kids Live Safe, which is a legitimate service that provides localized reports on sex offenders. The phishing attack is not from or related to that website.

Read the full story at PCWorld: New phishing scam preys on fears of child sexual predators.

I actually received one of these messages myself recently. Have you seen the child sex predator phishing scam in your email? Are there other suspicious emails or social network posts you’ve seen making the rounds? Share your phishing scam experiences in the comments below. 

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