Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fishing Is Fun But Phishing Is A Crime!

"Gone Fishing!" That phrase used to trigger pleasant images and lots of smiles. Now, phishing and other Internet scams have left a bad taste in one's mouth, and I don't meant from tainted carp. Phishing is the criminally fraudulent attempt to acquire personal information such as user-names, credit card numbers and passwords by pretending to be a trustworthy person or company. Emails from potential customers, facebook, myspace, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to trick people into providing their sensitive information.
Phishing often diverts the victim to a fake website that looks legitimate. Phishing is a serious crime that needs to be punished to the full extent of the law. Until all of the con artists are rounded up and behind bars, what can a reader do to avoid becoming a victim? Arm yourself with knowledge. Read some online training information and always be aware of the potential for fraud. Many Internet providers have phishing and spam filters available. Use them!
For historical information concerning phishing see: History of phishing.

What to look for? A phisher may pose as an employee of a Internet provider. Never respond to any email or instant message that requests your password. Your Internet provider all ready knows that information and will not ask for that information. In other words, your provider does not need you to verify your account because you are already signed in on your account.

Does the IRS contact someone initially by email? Very doubtful. If you receive an email from someone purporting to be from the IRS asking for your sensitive account information, it is likely a phisher. IRS agents usually contact you by United States mail. Phishers, on the other hand, love to initiate contact by email or instant messaging.
Feel dumb because you fell for a scam? Please don't feel that you were targeted because of a lack of sophistication. Phishers don't just pick on the uneducated. In fact, many phishing attacks are often specifically directed to attorneys, senior executives, doctors and other high profile targets.

What makes it so difficult to catch these thieves? Many of the thieves are foreigners and operate through groups like the Russian Business Network. Furthermore, international domain names add to the difficulty in promptly tracing and apprehending the perpetrators.
How can you more easily recognize a fraudulent message? Anti-phishing websites such as FraudWatch International and Millersmiles publish sample phishing messages that should arose your suspicion. Also check for misspelling in any URL (web address.) Misspelled URLs are a dead give away that an impostor is at work. Fortunately, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Foxfire, and Opera present a warning for some of the suspicious web addresses. Also beware of pop up adds on legitimate site. Clicking on such a pop up directs you away from the trusted site.

Is it just computers? Con artists might alternatively direct a victim to call a phone number to correct problems with the victim's bank account. Once the victim makes the call, a computer operator or person requests that the victim enter sensitive account information. Further complicating the detection of such scam artists is that they may have a caller id imitating an authentic bank or agency.

What steps lead to better safety? Stricter legislation and improved technology will aid in the battle against phishing. Anti-phishing software is a must. However educating Internet users to recognize phishing attempts is essential if the problem is to be substantially reduced. When an Internet users is contacted about an account needing to be "verified" (or any other topic used by phishers), be cautious. Try to contact the company directly to verify any email. Be suspicious and scrutinize any hyperlink contained within the suspect message. You can try to research the suspected site or email on services such as

What is the government doing? On January 26, 2004, the U.S.Federal Trade Commission sued a suspected phisher. The defendant allegedly created a web page designed to look like AOL Using the site, the California teen attempted to steal credit card information. In another case, Valdir Paulo de Almeida, was arrested in Brazil suspected of leading a large phishing crime ring. Senator Pat Leahy authored a bill in 2005 which has yet to become law. If the bill passes, fines would be up to $250,000 and prison terms could reach five years. The U.K. has an even stronger law. Fraud Act 2006.

If you are a phisher, hang up your computer and grab an old fashion fishing pole. Otherwise, you will be caught and when you are, you will be wearing stripes for a long time.


Secrets said...

Isnt that also the term they use on Ebay to describe people who bid on their own items with another bogus account????

Anonymous said...

GOod point Secret.

Thanks L.P. for keeping us update on the latest scams.

Anonymous said...

Crooks are getting too technical.

Anonymous said...

I do like regular fishing.

Anonymous said...

This was a real informative post. I wish you would write more of them.