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Laws on Phishing

If you believe you've been scammed, file your complaint with the FTC, and then visit the FTC's Identity Theft website at Victims of phishing can become victims of identity theft.

In the field of computer security, phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing is essentially an online con game and phishers are nothing more than tech-savvy con artists and identify thieves. They use SPAM, malicious Web sites, email messages and instant messages to trick people into divulging sensitive information, such as bank and credit card accounts. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail or instant messaging and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. Phishers use a number of different social engineering and e-mail spoofing ploys to try to trick their victims. Recent victims include Charlotte's Bank of America, Best Buy and eBay, where people were directed to Web pages that looked nearly identical to the companies' sites. In one fairly typical case before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a 17-year-old male sent out messages purporting to be from America Online that said there had been a billing problem with recipients' AOL accounts. The perpetrator's e-mail used AOL logos and contained legitimate links. If recipients clicked on the "AOL Billing Center" link, however, they were taken to a spoofed AOL Web page that asked for personal information, including credit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), social security numbers, banking numbers, and passwords. This information was used for identity theft.

The number and sophistication of phishing scams sent out to consumers is continuing to increase dramatically. While online banking and e-commerce is very safe, as a general rule you should be careful about giving out your personal financial information over the Internet. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) has compiled the Phishing Activity Trend Report and a list of recommendations below that you can use to avoid becoming a victim of these scams.

Phishing Activity Trends Report, 1st half / 2009

The number of unique phishing websites detected in June rose to 49,084, the second-highest number recorded since APWG began reporting this measurement.


Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information unless the email is digitally signed, you can't be sure it wasn't forged or 'spoofed'phishers typically include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements in their emails to get people to react immediatelythey typically ask for information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, date of birth, etc.phisher emails are typically NOT personalized, but they can be. Valid messages from your bank or e-commerce company generally are personalized, but always call to check if you are unsure. Don't use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic or you don't know the sender or user's handle instead, call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web address in your browser. Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial informationyou should only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone. Always ensure that you're using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser. Phishers are now able to 'spoof,' or forge BOTH the "https://" that you normally see when you're on a secure Web server AND a legitimate-looking address. You may even see both in the link of a scam email. Again, make it a habit to enter the address of any banking, shopping, auction, or financial transaction website yourself and not depend on displayed links.Phishers may also forge the yellow lock you would normally see near the bottom of your screen on a secure site. The lock has usually been considered as another indicator that you are on a 'safe' site. The lock, when double-clicked, displays the security certificate for the site. If you get any warnings displayed that the address of the site you have displayed does NOT match the certificate, do not continue.Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites. These toolbars match where you are going with lists of known phisher Web sites and will alert you.The newer version of Internet Explorer version 7 includes this tool bar as does Firefox version 2EarthLink ScamBlocker is part of a browser toolbar that is free to all Internet users - download at Regularly log into your online accountsdon't leave it for as long as a month before you check each accountRegularly check your bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure that all transactions are legitimateif anything is suspicious or you don't recognize the transaction, contact your bank and all card issuersEnsure that your browser is up to date and security patches appliedAlways report "phishing" or “spoofed” e-mails to the following groups:forward the email to reportphishing@antiphishing.orgforward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.govforward the email to the "abuse" email address at the company that is being spoofed (e.g. "")when forwarding spoofed messages, always include the entire original email with its original header information intactnotify The Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI by filing a complaint on their website:

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