Internet Fraudsters go Phishing

internet-fraudstersWith the Federal Trade Commission reporting that nine million Americans fall victim to identity theft each year, and ever increasing types of computer crimes emerging, it is clear that internet fraudsters are a growing threat. One of their favorite scams is phishing where they set up web sites, or send emails, designed to solicit the personal information of victims, which will then be used to commit fraud. The Anti-Phishing Working Group claims that the internet has never been more dangerous, and reports that malicious code has broken new barriers as electronic crime’s sophistication and ambition has grown unchecked.

An advanced phishing scam will set up a web site made to look like a legitimate site, for example, a replication of a bank or e-commerce site. More common is a simple email encouraging you to click on a link. The email will state something like, “We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity” or, “During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information.” Even if these are emails from a known source they are fake – these days internet fraudsters are able to send emails that makes it look like they came from an email address that you know.

If you get these emails you should never reply, and certainly not click on the links. Just clicking on the links could infect your computer with a virus that then logs your key strokes and sends the data back to the fraudster. Cutting and pasting the link into your web browser is just as dangerous. In order to protect your computer you should use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and ensure that you update the programs regularly.
In addition to fake web sites and emails you may suddenly see a pop-up on your computer requesting that you update information – you should not click these even if they use threatening warning language.

A good rule of thumb is to never email personal information, and if you receive any email asking you to do so consider it a scam. Email is not a secure means of communication at all, particularly if you are using POP3 technology. If you are in any doubt about a communication the best thing is to phone the company. There is no foolproof method of protecting against internet fraudsters, and they are getting more and more sophisticated. The best advice is to be a sophisticated internet user, be familiar with what scams look like, and use adequate security software.

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