I received an e-mail message from "Paypal" not to long ago. The e-mail stated that PayPal needed me to update and verify my security information for their database. I didn't. One of sentences in e-mail read:
"Complete necessary verification tasks within 5 days, or your account might get temporarily suspended."
That didn't sound like PayPal I've been doing business with for several years. The grammar of "your account might get temporarily suspended" raised an alarm bell. Also logo while quite professional looked odd.
But obvious giveaway was knowing Paypal would never contact me at an e-mail address I never gave them. I could have become a victim of a technique called phishing. Just another form of Identity theft.
The effort criminals put into stealing your identity staggers imagination.
With Phishing also called brand spoofing, criminals set up phony but legitimate looking websites then spam you with e-mail like one described above in hopes of catching a percentage of Internet users. No reputable business will ever ask ask for your personal information via e-mail information.
Phishing just became a parent to a newborn child called "pharming". Hackers plant phony information into DNS servers. This allows them to match domain names with database of IP addresses maintained by various web hosting companies. In other words you type in a web address press enter and get rerouted to bogus websites where identity thieves are waiting to grab any of your information.
2003 saw identity thieves target Ebay account holders, this year it's Paypal's turn but any company with a database of information remains a target.
Choicepoint a veritable clearinghouse for insurance industry finds themselves trying to explain how identity thieves tapped into their system to defraud 145,000 customers across U.S. Investigators in California place that number closer to a half a million.
The hackers apparently used previously stolen identities to apply for and receive business licenses then bought information from ChoicePoint whose database totals 19 billion public records.
The FTC estimates that this year alone identity theft will cost business community 4.2 billion dollars and 8 billion by end of 2006.
Easy access to computers provide more chances for identity theft but majority of cases according to Better Business Bureau happen offline. Mail fraud public spying known as "shoulder or telephone scams that target elderly surfing" contribute greatly to this epidemic.