Phishers Grow Clever, Focus on the Money
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If you thought the torrent of spam was getting ugly, there are even worse things to worry about. Two reports, one from the Anti-Phishing Working Group, and one from Websense Security (who contributed information to the first report) tell an unpleasant story about phishing trends in the first half of 2006. Itís worse than a jungle out there.
If you don't know what phishing is, here's how the Anti-Phishing Working Group defines it: "Phishing is a form of online identity theft that employs both social engineering and technical subterfuge to steal consumers' personal identity data and financial account credentials." Like ordinary spammers, phishers usually send out many thousands of emails. But these emails pretend to be from organizations or institutions with which the victims do business, such as banks and credit card companies. These emails attempt to convince the user to click on a link within the email; this link takes the victim to a site that looks just like the actual site from which the email claims to have been sent. Once the user visits the fake site, they are tricked into "logging in" and giving up personal information that can then be used to engage in identity theft.
CNN Money covered a truly brazen example in early November. Phishers sent out emails that pretended to be from the Social Security Administration. The emails claimed that they were announcing cost of living increases scheduled for 2007 Social Security benefits, and told recipients that they needed to update their personal information by November 11 or else they would have their Social Security "account" suspended indefinitely.
If the recipient clicked on the link included with the email, they were taken to a web site that mimicked the Social Security Administration's site. Once on site, victims were asked to reveal their name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, credit card information, and bank account numbers. That's more than enough information to engage in identity theft, and could allow a malicious con artist to steal someone's life savings and run up a truly horrendous bill on an online shopping spree.
Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart is "outraged that someone would target an unsuspecting public in this manner." The phishing attacks are under investigation. Meanwhile, Social Security recipients are far from alone in being targeted, as you'll see in a moment.
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