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ALERT! 'Phishing' A Hook For Scam Artists

As shopping, auctions, and other online activities become ever more popular, the tools used to "scam" people are increasing in volume and level of deception. "Phishing" is one of the most effective scamming techniques used today. "Phishing" is a term that refers to tricking computer users into disclosing credit card, bank account, or other valuable, personal information.

Phishing often comes in the form of an e-mail that looks like legitimate, official correspondence from an Internet vendor such as VISA, eBay, Paypal, or even your bank or the FBI. The e-mail may have a link to a web-site with a very "official" appearance including actual company logos and government seals. The site may even have a forged or spoofed web address, making it appear as if it has actually come from the vendor. These e-mails inform the user that their account has been flagged for review or even termination. They may state that the account-holder/recipient is "required" to provide current information in order for the account to remain in good standing. Users are then redirected to a look-alike website designed to convince them they are responding to a legitimate request. Data submitted via the deceptive web site is then routed directly to the fraudulent "phishers", who use the stolen information to purchase goods and services.

This type of e-mail solicitation *has* been received by users at Virginia Tech.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has posted warnings about these deceptive e-mails, and provides the following points that can help you avoid "getting hooked":

- If you receive an e-mail that warns you, with little or no notice, that an account of yours will be shut down unless you reconfirm your billing information, do not reply or click on the link in the e-mail. Instead, contact the company cited in the e-mail using a telephone number or Web site address you *know* to be genuine.

- Avoid e-mailing personal and financial information. Before submitting financial information through a Web site, look for the "lock" icon on the browser's status bar. It signals that your information is secure during transmission.

- Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.

- Report suspicious activity to the FTC. Send the actual spam to If you believe you've been scammed, file your complaint at, and then visit the FTC's Identity Theft Web site ( to learn how to minimize your risk of damage from identity theft.

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