Phishing emails

The Internet presents many opportunities for con-artists and fraudsters. The Internet security experts Message Labs have been examining the threats over the years.

The most sophisticated of the bunch, phishing e-mails, pose as official e-mails from banks, auction sites and other institutions. They usually ask you to update your details with them, or there was a problem on your account and click on a link, which takes you to the bank’s official website… or at least something that looks like the official website.

It is actually a fake, and the bank details and password you enter into the phoney logon screen is actually sent straight to the scammers.

There has been a rapid increase in phishing emails in the last few years. In July 2005, there was a ten-fold increase. In this time phishing, and its ability to steal your online identity, has become the principal online threat.

Spammers often use images in their e-mails as a way to avoid text-based filters that are looking for particular words or phrases in the e-mail. By using images you can’t pull out the words in the e-mail so you can’t see that the spammer is trying to send you off to PayPal or Citibank.

Fortunately, spam filters are getting better, and plenty of companies now have a way of sending of fake messages to warn other users.

The usual advice stands though, be watchful, and if you do receive a message asking you to update your details, change your password, open a new browser window and enter the site address manually – i.e. don’t click the link in the email.