Email and instant message scams

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Email and instant message scams

Email and instant messaging services allow you to quickly and easily communicate with your friends, family, and coworkers. Unfortunately, some people misuse these services and send out unwanted and unsolicited emails and instant messages (IMs). AOL provides you with the means to report unwanted email and IMs and keep yourself safe online. Check out the FAQs given below to know more.


What is AOL Certified Mail?

When AOL needs to contact you, you'll receive an AOL Certified Mail, a feature designed to help you to easily identify email that has been sent by AOL. You can easily identify AOL Certified Mail by the green ribbon in your message list.

If you open AOL Certified Mail, you'll also see the AOL Certified Mail banner above the Subject and details of the message.

What is a fraudulent billing email?

Fraudulent billing emails are those that ask for confidential billing information (any information that is normally not required for a change of payment method, such as a driver's license number, credit card pin number, or Social Security Number). To know how to protect yourself from such emails and pop-ups, please visit our online help article Fraudulent billing pop-up.

What are file request and attachment scams?

Some email and instant message scams try to get you to download files to your computer. The files/attachments often contain viruses that may cause your computer to run incorrectly or send out your password so that someone else can access your account. The files may be presented as a picture, a game, or an electronic greeting. The best policy to keep your computer safe is to never open or accept any file unless it is an expected file from someone you know.

What are AOL-related hoaxes?

You may receive emails or instant messages from people claiming to be from AOL. If you did not initiate the contact, AOL will not contact you via instant message for any problems related to your account. All emails that you receive from official AOL sources will be by AOL Certified Mail (example above).

You may also receive messages claiming that AOL will start charging for services like instant messaging or sending email. These features are included as part of the regular AOL service and will not be charged for separately.

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What is a jdbgmgr.exe (teddy bear) hoax?

You may have heard that a lot of viruses are let loose over the Internet. However, some of these viruses aren't really out there at all. Virus hoaxes are more than mere annoyances. They may lead some users to routinely ignore all virus warning messages, leaving them vulnerable to a genuine, destructive virus.

The jdbgmgr.exe hoax is a fraudulent email designed to trick users into deleting a legitimate file, jdbgmgr.exe, from their computer. Jdbgmgr.exe is the Microsoft Debugger Registrar for Java that displays the following icon.

Therefore, the email message stating that this file is a threat to your computer is a hoax. Although the jdbgmgr.exe file may become infected by a number of valid viruses (most commonly, the W32/Magistr@MM virus), the details of this hoax message are not based on actual events. We advise users who receive the email to delete the message. Please do not pass this email on as this is how an email hoax propagates.

What are chain emails and petitions?

Chain letters ask you to forward a specific message to others, often promising health, wealth, or good luck.

Petitions ask you to forward a message to others to demonstrate support for a cause.

Both chain letters and petitions create more mail in everyone's mailbox and may inadvertently give your email address to people who will send you more spam. Therefore, make sure that you do not forward such chain letters or petitions, and delete them instead.

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What are pyramid schemes?

Pyramid schemes are emails that ask you to send money to someone and place your name on a list. Eventually, your name and address supposedly reaches the top of the list and others will send you money. Pyramid schemes violate the AOL Terms of Service and should not be encouraged. Please delete such emails or report them by sending an email to

What are third-party charges scams?

You may receive emails claiming to be from a company that has billed your AOL payment method. These emails will include a hyperlink that leads to a Web site that asks you to either enter your Username and password or download files to your computer. The information that you enter is sent to the scammer who can then sign on to your AOL account, read your email, or violate AOL Terms of Service and eventually cause your account to be terminated. Files that you might download from such Web sites may contain computer viruses or Trojan horse programs that have been designed to steal your AOL password. Therefore, AOL strongly suggests that you do not download files or attachments in emails received from unknown senders.

What are 800 and 888 phone number scams?

Instead of asking for your password or credit card number directly, a scammer may give you an 800 or 888 number and PIN number (for a pager or similar service). When you get through and enter the PIN number, the voice recording sounds very official, saying it is AOL and asking you to reveal your password and/or credit card number. Although it sounds legitimate, it is not. Please remember that AOL will never ask for your information in such a manner.

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What are junk emails, prizes, and contests?

Junk emails are any unsolicited advertising, promotional material, or other forms of solicitation masquerading as email messages. In addition to being a nuisance, junk mails can carry dangerous Trojan horse programs. These programs come to your mailbox in the form of email attachments disguised as software, screen savers, photos, or some other offers of free products. If you mistakenly download one of these attachments, the Trojan horse program captures your password and mails it back to the hacker's email address.

Contest scams try to trick you into providing your credit card or personal information in order to receive a prize that you have allegedly won. Often the scammer will claim to need the information to cover the shipping and handling costs for your prize. With this information, the scammer can make purchases with your credit card or even alter your credit information, and you never receive the prize that you supposedly won.

How do I report IM violations?

If you receive an unwanted IM, you can report the message to AOL Community Action Team.

To report IM violations on AOL 9.6, AOL 9.5, AOL 9.1, or AOL 9.0 VR
1. On the Instant Message window, click the Report IM Spam link.
2. On the Thank You window, click Notify AOL.

Note: If you just wish to report the IM as spam, select the check box next to Block all IMs from, and then click OK.

3. Type your report in the text box on the Notify AOL window.
4. Click Send Report.

To report IM violations with AOL 9.0 Security Edition
1. On the Instant Message window, click the Report IM Spam link.
2. Click OK.

To report IM violations with AOL 9.0 SE or lower
1. On the Instant Message window, click Notify AOL.
2. In the text box, type your report.
3. Click Send Report.

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How do I report email violations?

If you receive unwanted or malicious email, you can send an email to AOL Community Action Team to report violations of AOL Terms of Service. Read our online help article How do I report email violations to know how to do so.

What is spoofing?

Spoofing is a process of faking the sending address of a transmission in order to gain illegal entry into a secure system. Spoofing can create fake responses or signals in order to keep a session on a Web browser active and prevent the Web site from timing out. Another type of spoofing is "Web page spoofing," also known as phishing. In this type of spoofing, a legitimate Web page, such as a bank's site, is reproduced in "look and feel" on another server that is under the control of the attacker. The intent is to fool users into thinking that they are connected to a trusted site, for instance, to collect user names and passwords.

To stay safe from spoofing and phishing, ensure that you enter your personal information only on trusted and secure Web sites, and always make sure you are completely logged out of your personal accounts after you are done using them.

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Related Articles:

How do I report email violations?
Objectionable email from an AOL user to a non-AOL user

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Last updated: 04-01-2014
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