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A Message from the Fraud Department

You may see this message at the head of an e-mail sent from what appears to be a financial institution. What you may not realize is that this is the most common method of Internet phishing scam flying around the Web right now. E-mail fraud is the number one way criminals manage to trick you out of personal information that they can then use for illegal purposes.

These Internet phishing groups try to obtain user names, passwords, mother’s maiden names, credit card information, pin numbers, social security numbers, and other sensitive information by masquerading as a trustworthy institution. Common targets for phishing scams include e-Bay and PayPal.

Baiting the Hook

Internet Phishing originated with America Online before spreading throughout the Worldwide Web. The ph replaced the f in fishing, making reference to using ever more sophisticated bait as a means of “catching” sensitive financial information. Early Internet phishing attempts included a false follow-up identification check after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was unsuccessful, but the attempt led to the realization that financial information could be gleaned through Internet ruses. By 2004, criminals had perfected the art of stealing financial information through phishing.

Making the Catch

Internet Phishers send out an e-mail supposedly from a legitimate company. They will tell you they are from a bank or a government institution, and there will be a link contained in the e-mail that appears to belong to the organization. They may misspell the URL of the legitimate company so the link takes you to their web site, or they may use apparently valid anchor text with a link added at the end that takes you to their site.

Once the victim clicks through to the website, Internet phishers use flaws contained within a trusted website’s scripts, where the victim logs in with their user name and password on a site that appears to be valid, when in reality their information is being stolen.

The Total Haul

Between May 2004 and May 2005, it is estimated that 1.2 American computer users were victims of phishing scams, totaling around $929 million in losses. Businesses in the United States lose around $2 million per year due to phishing scams.

The numbers in 2007 show that Internet phishing is only getting worse. During that year, 3.6 million Americans were victims, totaling $3.2 billion in losses.

Prevent Getting Hooked

One of the best ways to protect yourself from phishing scams is to employ the use of good, anti-virus and anti-spam software that includes anti-phishing protection. One such program is ParetoLogic’s Anti-Spam Sofware and PC Tools Spam Monitor. With fully customized scanning processes, or their Spam Controls that have the highest detection rate of spam and Internet phishing attempts in the industry. This advanced software uses state of the art technology to scan every incoming message for known spam, spyware, and phishing patterns designed to detect the newest and most sophisticated Internet threats.

Be sure to protect yourself against dangerous and malicious Internet phishers who may be out to steal your identity and your financial security. The Internet has become a haven for financial crimes, and you can never be too careful when it comes to safeguarding your personal information.