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 Phishtank.com, 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 antiphishing.org or phishtank.com to report it.

Five Tips to Help Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft has become one of the most common crimes in the United States. It’s estimated that in the last five years, more than twenty-seven million people have had their identity stolen. As you probably know, identity theft most commonly occurs when your social security number, credit card, or bank account number get in the wrong hands. But even though most people understand that identity theft is a very real problem, perpetrators continue to use more sophisticated tactics to get a hold of your important information.

Five easy ways to prevent identity theft and keep your information personal:

Keep your wallet in a safe place, even when you are around friends and coworkers. According to a recent study, 26% of identity theft victims knew the thief.

Tear up your bank and credit card statements. It takes little time, no money, and can save you a lot of hassle.

Don’t take it if you don’t need it
. There is no reason to have five credit cards in your wallet if you don’t need them all. You are more likely to lose one, and you’ll never know if one is missing.

Don’t write you social security number down. Just don’t do it unless you absolutely have to. You can write the last four digits on checks and transactions—but there is no need to write the entire number.

If you bank or shop online, be extra careful. The latest internet scam known as “phishing” is when scammers send emails imitating a legitimate Web site and ask for personal information and then use this information to commit identity fraud. Sometimes you can tell which spam is or isn’t dangerous. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is fake. If you are worried about online identity theft, you need shoeboxed.com. It will automatically protect you from these harmful messages, helping you keep your information private and secure.

Dramatic Tale of Identity Theft

The media doesn’t always focus on the important things. As much as I enjoy reading a detailed description of Paris Hilton’s ritzy jail cell, I think we can all agree that these stories don’t have much bearing on our everyday lives.

But every once and a while, when the moon and stars align, the press decides to focus on an issue that has real significance. Recently, the media has looked to expose the many different faces of identity theft, writing stories that educate and inform readers about this growing problem.

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported another instance of stolen identity – but one with an unusually personal twist. According to the article, Karen Lodrick realized that she was standing behind the woman who stole her identity when she noticed the nice suede jacket. Lodrick had only ever seen the coat once before – in a surveillance video of the thief from six months earlier. A forty-five minute chase followed in which Lodrick and police chased the woman to a parking lot where she finally collapsed from exhaustion. In the end, it turned out that the identity thief was a postal worker with a master key who had accessed Karen Lodrick’s mailbox.

This story does a particularly good job of identifying the emotions that can come with having your identity stolen – and in the case of Karen, how these feelings ultimately erupted in a chase scene straight out of Hollywood. But the article failed to recommend any realistic protective measures that would help people avoid becoming victims in the future. I’d like to think that I shouldn’t have to chase my identity down the street.

And this is why I’m so excited for Shoeboxed to launch. It will finally allow individuals to sign up for a service that automatically protects them from the dangers of online identity fraud.

Identity theft is a real problem, and we have a real solution.