On Your Side Alert: Email attachment warning - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

On Your Side Alert: Email attachment warning

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A 12 On Your Side Alert with a first-hand look at what happens when you click on unknown email attachments. We've warned you before - they could lead to computer viruses, and the loss of personal information. Why one local company is telling customers - don't click that link.

"This is the original e-mail I got, but when I received it this red bar was not there and this link was clickable," said Michael Flanagan.

Michael Flanagan with Michael and Son Heating and Cooling in Richmond says his company's e-mail was the target of a phishing scam. 

"I received an e-mail that said something about past due invoices on Google drive. It looked very clean. I'm pretty good at spotting junk. This one looked exceptionally clean, I clicked on it and things quickly went down hill from there," he said.

Nothing happened visibly, but in the back ground - crooks were hard at work capturing his client e-mail list. 

The email is showing up in inboxes across the area. It even showed up in the NBC 12 newsroom email. It claims to be from Michael and Son and says there are past due invoices that require immediate attention. To correct the problem, you're told to click a link.  

But it actually gives cyber criminals they keys to your computer. For Flanagan, that was just the beginning of his problems.

"Within a couple of minutes I started to receive phone calls and e-mails from people that received the same thing from me. 'We don't owe you any money. I thought we were paid in full'. Since then it's been hundreds and hundreds of e-mails and probably a hundred phone calls at least," Flanagan said.

Crooks sent out the spam messages to dozens of customers in the companies data base, and in some cases, if they clicked the link they were taken to a website where cyber thieves tried to collect private information. Bottom line, this e-mail is not from Michael and Son, if you see it delete it.

"Call first, if anything looks suspicious. We would never send you a link that says click on this to view anything. If we needed to send you information, it would be right there in the body of it," said Flanagan.

Flanagan is confident that outside of e-mail address, his customer's other private data is secure. He's still beating him self up over the fact he fell for the deception. 

"I've been asked to pay the taxes on the prize I have won to Egypt before and those were real obvious but this is the first one that looked so clean and it got me," he said.

If you have clicked the link, make sure to scan your computer with an antivirus and change all your passwords.

Another piece of advice, if you clicked that link - keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements. Many times the crooks will download a virus on your machine and it could take months before you know you've compromised. 

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