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While summer is often thought as the best time to go fishing, phishers were throwing out their nets this spring. These Internet conmen show no signs of reeling in their lines either as people are taking the bait.
According to the United Kingdom's fraud prevention service, there was a steep rise in "facility takeover theft" in the second quarter (April to June) of 2008, according to a July 14 Telegraph newspaper story. The number of cases of this type of crime increased by 182 per cent compared to the same time frame a year ago. In facility takeover theft, a criminal targets bank accounts and credit cards already in use. The article reported many of these cases included phishing. In phishing, computer users receive emails from what looks to be a trusted institution or business asking for personal information. Phishing is still a relatively new crime with it being really noticed in about 2004, according to a July 14 Tech News World website article.
"By 2006, it was in full swing and (has) been growing steadily ever since," Zulfikar Ramzan, technical director for the security technology and response division of Symantec, was quoted as saying. "There have been a lot of innovators in the phishing world."
Early on, it was the customers of big banks who were the main targets. Later smaller banks started being used by these conmen. Now, it seems any business or trusted organization has to defend against being erroneously represented. According to the Tech News World article, the number of organizations being phished has increased from 150 a month in December of 2006 to 250 a month in March of 2008. The peak in that time frame was 275 a month.
These phishers seem to be aware of what is going on in the world. For example, when the United States government started sending out "economic stimulus cheques," the phishers went into action, according to a July 12 Tampa Tribune story. People were receiving official-looking emails seemingly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requesting personal information to speed up the processing of the cheques. The scammers would then use the person's address and Social Security number to take out loans or open new credit card accounts.
This is not the first time in 2008 that the IRS has been used by conmen. A July 15 WDEL 1150 AM radio website story reported that earlier this year people received emails saying they were eligible for tax refunds and only had to send in some information. In another situation, they got a letter saying the US Tax Court had a case against them. The criminals even tried to use the fax machine to fool people by sending fake tax forms with requests for bank account numbers and copies of driver's licenses and passports.
The popular job board Monster.com also found itself as a target of phishing. Potential victims received an email asking them to update their profile but instead of being sent to Monster.com, their information would wind up in a computer in Turkey, a July 15 IT Pro newsletter story stated.
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