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I received an email and I'm not sure it's authentic. It asks to answer to the email itself:

  • without editing the subject
  • to activate a service
  • it doesn't ask me to click any link (except for confirming I have read the content, but it's optional)

and

  • it doesn't contain any attachments

I should only answer to it to activate the service, and even in the case it was a scam my name is not visible when I send emails. I wonder:

  • given that I received a fake email/attempt of phishing, as long as I don't click any link is it still risky to answer to it?
  • Did you actually request a service e.g. register an account recently? – Philip Rowlands Feb 19 '17 at 17:28
  • yes I did: the email is 90% safe, I only want to be sure that I don't risk anything if it wasn't...For general awareness mostly – franz1 Feb 19 '17 at 19:21
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If somebody has emailed you they currently have no idea whether your email is even used in the first place, so replying will do nothing but flag that there is somebody on the other end, therefore making your email more "valuable" to other scammers. You shouldn't click any link in the email AT ALL. A simple trick would be to add an "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of the email, it could lead anywhere and end up with your data, address etc. being in the spammer's hands.

ARTICLE http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2376031,00.asp

  • ok, thank you for your reply. I don't click any link, but what if I answer to the email? – franz1 Feb 19 '17 at 19:23
  • Before, simply opening an email could download self-executing malware by using an HTML script. Most large email providers have blocked this to prevent it but it can be turned off, assuming that you still have that blocked you should be safe. Spam isn't sent 1 by 1 to certain people, a program emails hundreds of people at once to maximise their effect, but they don't know whether you have a 'live' email account or not. Replying to the email validates that you're account is 'live' and like I said before, makes your account more valuable because they know their spam will be reaching somebody. – ConAar2 Feb 19 '17 at 20:20
  • I wouldn't recommend this as it might lead to you receiving more spam (and potentially more dangerous spam) as it's now known as an active account. – ConAar2 Feb 19 '17 at 20:20
  • @robertalrp You should not answer spam emails from your personal email account because it is likely to attract large volumes of additional spam, possibly making your account unusable. If you want to satisfy your curiosity, create a new email address specifically for this purpose. Also check out 419eaters, a community dedicated to scambaiting. – tlng05 Feb 19 '17 at 23:49
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Some services can be controlled by email - e.g. most mailing list software allow you to unsubscribe by sending an email with a certain subject line to a certain address; some forum software allow posting via email. In theory someone could try to trick you into issuing such a command by replying to a specially crafted email (possibly one where the command is hidden by mixing HTML and text). It's a very remote possibility though - hard to pull off and I can't think of any email-controllable service that would be a valuable attack target.

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