Beware of New Online "Pharming" Scams

You may recall last fall I was nearly a victim of a phishing scheme, in which hackers took advantage of the business I do online with Amazon by crafting a e-mail message that looked exactly like one they would typically send and asking me to provide account information. In this case, the phony message told me my account was frozen due to a security glitch and that I needed to click on a link and complete a form. Needless to say, I called Amazon and realized I was almost tricked, and badly at that.

Here's the newest scheme involving a new technique called pharming, and it's just as deceptive as the one that almost got me: Really skilled hackers are redirecting customers who do online banking to fake sites where they can steal passwords and other sensitive information about their accounts.

The scary part about this scam: Hackers are targeting such a small portion of Internet traffic to their fake bank sites, legitimate bank sites aren't noticing the slight drop off in customer activity. Hackers also take advantage of technology and the familiarity of sites like Amazon that often have numeric addresses and change them in order to redirect traffic.

That's why I recommend reading this excellent USA Today piece thoroughly, so you'll be up to speed on some of the newest schemes hackers use to separate you from your hard-earned money.

A word of caution from someone who was nearly victimized: Never ever key in your password and login online in response to an e-mail, even if it seems to be from your most trusted vendor. Always call them first to confirm if the e-mail is legitimate, because it probably isn't. Almost no reputable online business will ask for this information via an e-mail.

USA Today April 22, 2005

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