Spam and viruses are enough to worry about, but now online fraud is reaching epidemic proportions. Consumers logged over 100,000 Internet fraud complaints last year—double those of 2001—according to the FTC. And identity theft jumped almost 80 percent from June 2002 to June 2003, says research firm Gartner. The total cost of identity theft over the past five years equals a cool $60 billion.
Some of the blame for the staggering rise is due to phishing, a sneaky method of getting unsuspecting victims to reveal their credit card and bank account numbers. The scammers launch cleverly disguised e-mail campaigns that appear to be from reputable companies such as Citibank, eBay, and PayPal. A typical bogus e-mail may request the recipient to “confirm” personal information. A surprisingly large number of people follow the instructions, handing over their identities.
Now you can fight back. “Online identity theft has reached epidemic proportions and is a serious problem facing businesses and consumers,” says Pavni Diwanji, CEO of MailFrontier, an antispam developer. The new fraud detection capabilities in MailFrontiers Matador 3.5 find known and unknown fraudulent e-mail by identifying seven signs of mischief. And to educate consumers, the firm has launched the Fraud Resource Center, which posts fraud alerts. The FTC also has tips on avoiding ID theft at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.