Tech & The Web

Giving Themselves Away

I was under the impression that I had successfully instructed AOL to forward my emails to my Gmail account. I was assisted in this misunderstanding by AOL itself, since I only get AOL Journal alerts at the Gmail address now.

In any case, I signed on briefly to AOL’s Webmail page, something I hadn’t done (and had no reason to think I needed to do) since May. I had 556 emails waiting for my attention.

Are you kidding me??

The majority of them were news alerts from MSNBC and CBS News. There were a few from some bill payment services I use, but that I visit on my own without their email prodding. There were a number of spam messages; apparently, when one stops paying AOL, their highly-touted spam controls fall down a few pegs.

One of them came from Paypal. At least, that’s what the address said. But as I read it, I was confident that this didn’t come from Paypal.

I found five obvious “red pen” problems very quickly:

1. “Please read this message and follow it’s instructions.”
It’s is a contraction and is short for “it is.” They didn’t need the apostrophe. On the other hand, I suppose I should give them half a point for not trying to force an apostrophe in to make instructions plural.

2. “Due to these technical updates, your account has been flagged…”
This is one of my all-time biggest grammar pet peeves. “Due to” is not the same as “because of.” The real explanation centers on adverb phrases versus adjective phrases and just complicated to make most people’s eyes glaze over. But I’ll simplify the whole thing for you with this: if you’re writing a sentence with “due to” and you can’t substitute the phrase “caused by,” and have the sentence still make sense, then use “because of” instead.

3. “To Confirm Your Identity click the link below, Please make sure you do this in a timely fashion…”
Without spending much time on the unnecessary capitalization of the words confirm, your and identity, it should have been obvious to the writer of this email that the needed a period after the word below, not a comma. But hey, they got the Paypal logo just right!

4. “…we look forward of bringing you updates regularly”
Most people look forward to things. Maybe this is an overseas operations where English is a third or fourth language?

5. “Please make sure you do this in a timely fashion as we look forward of bringing you updates regularly_
They went from using a comma when they needed a period to just forgetting about the end-of-the-sentence punctuation completely here. Their poor English teachers are probably just coming out of it by now. Nurse!!

Maybe it was written by some teenage hacker who slept through his grammar lessons. I can’t imagine many people believing that writing like this would seem legit. After all, would you trust your sensitive personal information with someone who composes a letter like this?

4 Comments

  1. These people don’t pay attention to how they do anything they just do it and hope that no one spots their mistakes and falls for it.

  2. You missed the first and most obvious clue: PayPal, like eBay, its owner, does not address its members “Dear Customer.” It addresses them by their complete legal name (as it is when you sign up for the service). I just double checked my PayPal emails to verify this and yes, there’s my name, up at To: and then again in the body of the email.

    As they caution, I never click a link in the email, but enter the URL in my browser’s window for myself.

  3. I’ve gotten that exact email a number of times… here’s the really good part.. I don’t have a paypal account anywhere! And the fact that I may one day get that email and be half asleep reading it and might actually do it, keeps me from having a paypal account! So I thank that “whoever he/she is” for making my life a little harder by not being able to have paypal.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.