Don't get Hooked!

According to an article published by the research firm Gartner Inc., Internet users will give 2.8 billion dollars to Internet thieves in 2006! Through the practice known as "phishing" unwary users will lose an average of $1,244 each time they fall for on-line fraud and users who are taken in by phishing scams are less likely to recover their money. In 2005, 80% of victims got their money back. This year, that number dropped to 54%. Gartner estimates that 3.5 million Americans will give up sensitive information to phishers in 2006 -- up from an estimated 1.9 million last year.

What is phishing? Simply put it is electronic scamming. The phisher fools you into divulging private identifying information or convinces you to send money. These scam artists have become very sophisticated. They create very convincing e-mails connected to fake web sites that look identical to the original. For example: you receive an e-mail that looks like an official letter from your bank. It has the bank's logo, address, and very official language stating that the bank needs to "verify" your account information. "There is a problem and we may close your account!" Just click on the convenient website link and fill out the online form. When you click, you are taken to a very official web site. The scam artists have actually copied the bank's own site. When you arrive you are asked to fill out a form with your bank account number, birth date, password, SSN, etc. When you click OK you are told everything is now fine. Fine that is for the thief. He can now logon to your bank account and withdraw all your hard earned money!

It gets worse. Phishing is now being done with Instant Messaging (IM), text messaging on cell phones, and even old fashioned phone calls. Phishing attempts come as fraudulent messages from on-line stores, on-line auction houses, county, state, and federal governments. Currently Microsoft is taking legal action against 100 phishing gangs based in Europe, the Middle East and Africa! These gangs make money in many different ways. Some use the login information to steal money directly from accounts; others sell the data to those that can use it and some conmen get money for every PC they infect with ad-ware.

Quick Tip-Bit: Verify all requests for private information before giving any web-site personal data. Banks, stores, governments and corporations never ask for private information. They will only ask for information after you have requested a new account or asked to edit your information. You came to them first not the other way around.

If you have any questions please call Dean Hancy.

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