"Spoof" emails are spam messages that appear to be from a well known company, such as PayPal. Usually the email warns the recipient that fraudulent activity has been detected in their account and instructs them to click on a link and enter their personal account information.

PayPal is fighting back, with instructions on its Web site for spotting these phony messages, which may be professionally designed to look quite real. The first thing to look for, the company says, is a generic greeting. These bogus messages usually begin with "Dear PayPal Member" instead of your name.

Next, look for a false sense of urgency in the message. Most spoof emails try to deceive you with the threat that your account is in jeopardy if you don't update it ASAP.

Finally, a spoofed email will contain a phony link made to look like it's sending you to the company's mail Web site. But in reality, it's sending you to a dummy site where your personal data can be stolen.

"Move your mouse over the link and look at the URL in your browser or email status bar. If the link looks suspicious, don't click on it. And be aware that a fake link may even have the word "PayPal" in it," the company said.

PayPal also says you can also identify fake emails by the information they ask you to provide. PayPal says it will never ask for the following information in emails:
• Credit and debit card numbers
• Bank account numbers
• Driver's License numbers
• Email addresses
• Passwords
• Your full name

The PayPal Website also has an email link where recipients of these phony messages can report them, so the company can take action against them.