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Online Identity Theft

Spoof Email Phishing Scams and Fake Web Pages or Sites

by Mat Bright
27th June 2003 (last updated 23rd February 2004)

Part One


If its not a chance to win a new car, its a notification of 'system
maintenance', 'account verification' or 'email verification'. The problem is, that none of them are
likely to have actually come from eBay, Paypal, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, Hotmail, Earthlink or any of the online banks. They are simply scams which are aimed at convincing us to give up our login and/or credit card information. The really worrying part of the whole thing is that these scams look so convincing, the subject matter could be almost anything, and many people are falling prey (MailFrontier recently claimed that over 40% of recipients fell for the recent Citibank Email Phishing Scam).

These scams begin with an email which has been affectionately names 'spoof email' by eBay and Paypal. The word 'spoof' reminds many of us of the infamous Mel Brooks films and suggests some sort of comical parody, but here they really refer to a hoax, forged or bogus email. Not one of these names seems entirely correct without the word scam included though, and I much prefer the terms "email hoax scam" or "phishing scam". I will, however, use all these terms throughout the article, you just need to understand that they pretty much refer to the same thing.

What is Phishing? - Phishing is a term used to describe the action of assuming the identity of a legitimate organisation, or web site, using email or web pages and with a view to convince consumers to share their user names, passwords and personal financial information for the purpose of using it to commit fraud. Phishing is a hacker's term, hence the reason it is spelt with a "ph" instead of the expected "f" (the "f" was replaced in hackers' terminology for their telephone hacking activities in the 1970's - "Phone Phreaking"). As such, it could be creatively described as "fishing for consumers' identity and financial information", but as the term is relatively new to the english language terms like "scam" and "hoax" will remain closer to the tip of the consumer's tongue.

These email hoax or phishing scams (and the fake web pages that they sometimes refer you to) are nothing new; but they are on rapid increase and with ever changing content, presentation and approaches, a great many of us are likely to fall victim.

This article looks at email hoax or phishing scams and how they work to commit Identity Theft. We will also look at ways to identify an email hoax and what to do in the eventuality that you receive one or fall victim to one. We'll see examples of these forged emails and web pages and we look at what preventative measures you can take with regard to online identity theft in this manner. eBay and Paypal feature strongly in the article - their users are presently main targets for fraudsters, according to growing trends in Identity Theft crime reports, so they fare as the best examples at present. Needless to say that we receive almost daily reports of these forged eBay and Paypal emails together with many others.

This article is updated frequently to reflect new examples of email hoax scams and fake web pages. The observations and recommendations often change to reflect this, and new examples will be displayed on our library of email scams pages, so come back regularly and keep up with this rapidly growing trend or use the link provided on that page to receive a notification of when we add new scams (the ideal way to stay informed and avoid falling victim).

For now, let's look at how the identity theft occurs...

click yo go to part two

Its a common internet fraud crime and internet users are the target of Spoof email hoax scams and fake or forged web pages.
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