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updated 3/1/2012 3:51:53 PM ET 2012-03-01T20:51:53

A phishing scam preying on Skype users is a perfect case study in what to look for when you think an email may be out to get you.

This particular email scam  addresses potential victims with "Hello dear," and then asks them to "verify" their Skype accounts. The subject of the email is "Your Skype account needs update."

Already, this should raise three giant red flags.

First, what respectable, trustworthy company, on the Web or elsewhere, would address you as "dear?"  Look through your inbox: Aside from messages for friends, family or your significant other, do any companies call you "dear?" Real emails from Skype include the first and last name of the recipient.

Second, why would you need to verify your account? To make sure it's still active? To ensure you still have a balance? Has your Skype identity  been stolen? The phony email doesn't say, only that it's been "randomly selected" for verification.

And read the email subject line out loud. Sounds strange, right? The poor grammar should tip you off that something is amiss.

The scam email — which was received by TechNewsDaily, a sister site to SecurityNewsDaily, whose editor passed it on for analysis — then tells recipients they will be taken through "a series of identity verification pages," and that "Protecting the security of your Skype account is our primary concern, and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause."

Last, and most notably, the email instructs would-be victims to log onto their Skype pages by clicking a link to what appears to be Skype's actual website, www.skype.com.

However, when SecurityNewsDaily clicked on the embedded link, it redirected the Web browser — Google Chrome in this case — to login-skype-com-account.ug-copiers.com, a page flagged by Google as a suspected phishing site.

You can easily avoid online scams  like these by first treating emails, especially unsolicited ones, with a healthy bit of skepticism. If you haven't already, install strong anti-virus software on your computer, which can automatically detect phishing attempts like these. If an email includes a link, hover your cursor over it; most browsers will reveal the URL of the email, allowing you to make sure it's legitimate before you click.

And keep a close eye out for spelling and grammar mistakes — if something looks awry in an email, or is misspelled, don't trust it.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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