Something Smells Phishy!

Lord Jeffery once said, “A good name, like good will, is got by many actions and lost by one.” Today, this statement rings true to web users everywhere, as “phishers” impersonate a vast number of reputable businesses, including PayPal, eBay, Inc., Bank of America Corporation, and Citibank. According to, an organization committed to eliminating phishers, around 77,709 phishes were sent out in April 2007. With one click of a button, an unsuspecting user can give away their precious information to criminals! It is important to try to protect yourself from getting hooked by their extremely enticing and advanced baiting techniques.

Phishing is the illicit act of luring internet users to give up their valuable personal and account information. The first phishers started out stealing AOL users’ passwords in the 1990s by sending out instant messages to unsuspecting victims. When they got passwords, the phishers gained access to all their victims’ account information. Phishers now use a variety of techniques, including fraudulent emails, pop-ups, links, websites, and phone calls.

The damage caused by phishers ranges from cluttered email inboxes to financial failure. Estimates suggest that between May 2004 and May 2005 computer users lost approximately $929 million USD. For businesses the picture is even worse, as US businesses lose $2 billion USD a year because their clients fall prey to phishers.

To combat phishers, companies are coming up with creative solutions. Some companies use user specific details when corresponding with clients. For example, the Bank of America Corporation sends the client’s image on any emails or messages. The goal of such incentives is to help users differentiate between legitimate correspondences and false ones. With the launch of Firefox 2.0, an open-source browser, Firefox included Google, Inc.’s anti-phish software. This software alerts users when they are on a phisher’s site (see photo). As the presence of phishers climbs, more and more companies are having to take action against them.

As for now, here are some tips you may find useful to fight phishermen:

• Do not click on the links of any unexpected e-mails alerting you that you need to confirm your billing information.
• Look for multiple misspellings.
• Look for the “lock” icon, which indicates a secure site, on the browser’s status bar.
• If you’re unsure about something, contact the company in question.

If you do smell something phishy, you can visit or to report it.