Online criminals continuously change their operating methods. That's why it is crucial that Internet users keep up on the latest scams and the steps to take to protect their personal and financial information when online.
Here is an overview of two of the most widespread techniques being used to commit online fraud, as well as some practical tips to protect your personal security.
Phishing: This is one of the most popular methods of online fraud. Phishing, or "spoofing," is a scheme whereby users are sent fake e-mails that claim to be from a legitimate source. The e-mail directs the user to a counterfeit Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and user names or credit card, Social Security, and bank account numbers. By hijacking brand names of banks, online retailers, and credit card companies, phishers often convince recipients to respond.
Crimeware: This is a class of computer programs designed exclusively to facilitate online identity theft. Cyber thieves use a variety of techniques to steal confidential data through crimeware, including:
This type of scam received national attention earlier this year when it was revealed that business executives at major U.S. firms were the targets. The "bait" used to lure the recipient was an official-looking subpoena from the U.S. District Court in San Diego. When recipients clicked on the document to view it, software designed to collect keystroke data was secretly installed on their computers. It was estimated that thousands of people fell victim to this scam.
Play It Safe
The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that online scams were responsible for $240 million in losses in 2007. With the number and sophistication of online scams increasing, there are some basic recommendations you can follow to help avoid becoming a victim.
Finally, if you think you've fallen victim to a scam, report it. The FBI has a Cyber Operations unit devoted to fighting cyber crime. Their Internet Crime Complaint Center is at www.ic3.gov.
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This article was prepared by Standard & Poor's Financial Communications
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