Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to Tell if an Email is Real or Fake

Fake emails, also called "spoof" or "phishing" emails, try to look like they are from real companies or people you know. They are a common way criminals use to steal your personal or financial information, such as bank account details, credit card information, passwords, etc. Fake emails often link to fake ("spoof") websites where your information can be collected as you type it. So, be very cautious!

Here are some ways to determine that the email you received is a "spoof":
Fake Sender's Email Address
You can check who sent the email by looking at the sender's address. For example, the message may say it’s from "South Bank", but the email address may be something unusual like "southbank_support@hotmail.com". A reliable company's email should not be using a public internet service provider account like Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo!, etc. Typically, real companies have their own domains. So, you should expect the email address to look something like "support@southbank.com".

Requesting Private Information
Companies contacting you will not ask via email for your private information. Be very suspicious of emails requesting your social security number, account number, security code, personal identification number  (PIN) or other sensitive information.

Not Addressed to You
A legitimate email from a business with whom you have a relationship will address you by name rather than as “Valued Customer” (or something similar). Since a reliable business likely has a customer file with your contact information, they will address you directly.

Emails which have misspellings or grammatical errors, or grammar that indicates they are not properly formatted for the language in which they are written, are additional signs that the message is a fake.

Incorrect Links
Some email message will make a request for you to click on a link (e.g. View your account statement here). Hover your mouse over the link to see the content of the link. Similar to "Fake Sender's Email Address" above, the link should have the company's URL in the beginning of the link (e.g. "www.southbank.com/customer/statement.aspx"). Don't click on a suspicious link. Clicking on a fake link will likely allow a hacker access to you computer and stored information, or will download malware to your computer.

Low Resolution Images
Another tip-off to a fake email message is poor image quality of the company’s logo or other images in the message.

What if the Sender is Someone you Know?
Spoof emails from people you know usually ask you for you to do something that a friend might not ask you to do, such as to click on a link to an unusual website. Sometimes, you will see that the "friend" sent the email to a number of email addresses in the "To" box. In this case, it is likely that your friend was "spoofed", which is causing that email account to contact you.

When you suspect you received a fake email from a company with whom you do business, call that company's customer service department. Ask them about the content of the message. If the message is legitimate, the customer service department should be able to assist you with the message request. If the message is not legitimate, delete it right away.

When you suspect you received a fake email from a somebody you know, send that person a separate, new email asking if they sent the prior message you received. Do not reply via the suspected message which may (or may not) be sent to them. If the person replies that the message is not legitimate, delete it right away.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...

David Schuchman

Monday, December 1, 2014

Beware of Project Scope Creep

Scope creep in project management refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. The addition of, or changes to, a project's requirements and features can occur when the goals of a project are not clearly defined, documented, or controlled. Project managers have been plagued by scope creep since the beginning of project management. However, managing scope creep is achievable. 
How Does Scope Creep Happen?
Even when there’s a clearly defined project scope, you still have to beware of scope creep. This generally tends to occur when new features are added to product designs that have already been approved, without providing equivalent increases in budget, time and/or resources. The main causes of scope creep are:

  • Poor Requirements Analysis: Clients don’t always know what they want and can only provide a vague idea. Therefore, their needs are not fully expressed or well defined.
  • Not Involving the Users Early Enough: Thinking you know what the users want or need is a serious mistake. It is important to involve users in the requirements, analysis and design phases.
  • Underestimating the Complexity of the Project: Many projects run into problems because they are new in an industry and have never been done before. In those cases, project managers and participants don't fully know what to expect, or who to look to for additional guidance.
  • Lack of Change Control: While you can expect there to be a degree of scope creep in most projects, it is important to have a process to manage these changes.
  • Perceived Additional Value: This refers to exceeding the scope of a project in the belief that value is being added. However without proper analysis of the change request, there is no guarantee that the change will increase value or customer satisfaction.

How to Control Scope Creep
Managing scope creep in project management is a challenging job that needs to be addressed at the beginning, and throughout, each project's life cycle. Here are some basic guidelines to set for yourself to successfully control the scope of your project:
  • Understand the priorities of the project sponsors: Make a list that you can refer to throughout the project. Items should include budget, deadline, feature delivery and customer satisfaction. You’ll use this list to justify your scheduling decisions or to support your need to defer additional requests once the project has commenced.
  • Define your deliverables: Deliverables should include general descriptions of functionality to be included within the project. Make sure you have them approved by the project sponsors.
  • Break the project down into milestones: Complete a thorough project schedule and make sure you identify the critical paths within the timeline. Be sure to leave a little room in the project schedule for change requests or an error. If your schedule is tight, reevaluate your deliverables to see if any can be deferred until after the team completes the primary project requirements. Seek schedule approval by the project sponsor, then notify all key project participants.
  • Expect that there will be scope creep: Implement a change process early and inform the project sponsor and participants of your processes. A basic change control process must include a means to identify the affect on the project timeline, budget and resources. In addition, it must require an approval for the changes to be implemented and a recognition of any impact.

I encourage you to leave a comment by clicking on "...comments" below...

David Schuchman