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Scam Alert

Sneaky e-mail steals money and identities
The newest scams to hit the Web are authentic-appearing e-mails requesting verification of financial information. Customers of Yahoo!, Citibank, AOL, Earthlink, PayPal, BestBuy.com, Discover Card and SonyStyle.com are among those targeted.

The scam technique, nicknamed "spoofing" or "phishing" (as in "fishing for information" but with a "p" like "phony"), is causing so many problems that the FTC, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Consumers League and Earthlink held a press conference in September in Washington, D.C., to raise the public's awareness of the problem.

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"Bogus e-mails that try to trick customers into giving out personal information are the hottest, and most troubling, new scam on the Internet," says Jana Monroe, Assistant Director of the FBI's Cyber Division.

In this scam, the phisher sends out a legitimate-looking e-mail that claims to be from a company the reader does business with and tells the reader that there is an account error, possible fraud or other problem with the account.

The reader is asked to click on a link in the e-mail and enter account information on the linked Web site. The link takes the reader to a phony Web site that gathers the information and could use the information to drain the reader's bank account, charge up their credit card and steal their identity.

For example, a customer of Yahoo! Wallet in South Florida received an e-mail that looked very much like a Yahoo! correspondence from Yahoo! Billing. The e-mail advised him that his credit card information had either expired or the mailing address was incorrect. He was to update his credit card information within five days or risk losing the privilege of Yahoo! Wallet. It looked real, but it was a con. Yahoo! and other legitimate companies would never ask their customers for private information in an e-mail.

Recently, Citibank reported that this scam was attempting to dupe their customers. Here's an example of phishing.

"Citibank urges recipients of this e-mail to delete it immediately," says the Citibank Web site. "Citibank does not ask customers to provide sensitive information in this way. Don't reply to any e-mail that requests your personal information."

Even people who do not have accounts with these companies may receive the e-mail because it is sent as spam to as many e-mail accounts as possible.

Remember that anyone can build a legitimate-looking Web site. Don't fall for this scam.

Read about more scams.

-- Posted: Oct. 10, 2003



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