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The Critical Effects of Phishing Scams

written by: •edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 3/4/2010

The effects of phishing cannot be overstated - this criminal method of acquiring personal data via emails and webpages in order to fool a financial institution is a huge threat with shocking consequences.

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    Phishing Affects us All

    Phishing wrecks lives. It also steals identity.

    Criminal organizations around the world use the technique known as phishing to extract information from innocent citizens in order to access their bank details, steal identities, launder money and more.

    Attempts can be difficult to spot with an untrained eye, and successful phishing affects everybody, from the bank manager to small children whose school, club or church group may be caught out by this type of scam.

    The effect of phishing on the economy is also powerful – but rarely as long lasting, hard-hitting or just downright embarrassing as when they con you.

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    How Phishers Con You

    This seemingly genuine email from Visa is in fact a phishing attempt In order for phishers to wreak havoc with your personal details, they first need to get these details from you.

    The criminals perpetrating these thefts are clever, and skilled at deception. Should you receive a phishing email or find yourself on a suspect website, several clues should give away the truth:

    Hyperlinks: when you hover over a link in an email, the full, genuine URL should appear as a tooltip. If this link doesn’t match what is written in an email, then there is something suspicious about it and you shouldn’t go any further.

    HTTPS: Banks and other organizations that store personal details should be conducting Internet transactions (whether monetary or information) with a secure connection. If you are taken via an email to your bank website and the URL in the address bar doesn’t show https:// then you need to close the window.

    Grammar, old logos, bad disguise: If you’re looking for something to prove that the website or email is fake, you will usually find it. The most common errors that the cyber criminals make are related to poor English grammar. Banks and credit card companies have whole departments dedicated to ensuring that anything issued is worded correctly in order to maintain the image of the organization.

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    The Real Effect of Phishing

    The real effects of phishing - the criminals have a virtual money tree, with you as the branch. The effect of phishing scams can be swift, resulting in identity theft, the loss of thousands of pounds of savings, running up of huge debts and even repossession of vehicles and property. Losing your car might mean the loss of employment - a devastating outcome.

    It is estimated that businesses in the United States lose $2 billion dollars per year when their clients are targeted by phishing scams. Meanwhile 3.6 million adults in the USA were conned out of $3.2 billion between August 2006 and August 2007; figures like these are expected to rise.

    While many banks and businesses are of the opinion that customers are also responsible for taking precautions, the truth is that many don’t. As a result, many businesses that communicate regularly with their customers via email have taken steps to personalize their communications. Phishers often don’t get information such as usernames or even first names when attempting to gain information via fake emails, so the genuine institutions have been able to gain an advantage by addressing customers directly either in emails or on their websites.

    Similarly, customers are often advised to contact via telephone the company that the email is claiming to be sent from in order to verify the communication.






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