Online Phishing Scams Exploding

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Identity theft has taken a bad turn with the number of phishing scamsincreasing nearly 800-fold over the last 10 months.

Last September, there were 279 recorded phishing scams raveling theInternet, according to MessageLabs, Inc., a managed email securitycompany based in New York. This past March, that number had risen to215,643. That number has remained steady with 205,953 seen in April and247,027 logged in May.

The highest mark was registered in January, 2004 when MessageLabscounted 337,050 phishing emails.

''In just 10 months, the number of phishing emails seen by MessageLabshas increased exponentially -- evidence that the number of individualscams has also risen dramatically,'' says Mark Sunner, chief technologyofficer at MessageLabs. ''For targeted organizations, the impact can behigh, including lost productivity, customer confusion and complaints,damage to the brand and legal implications. For individual users, thefinancial losses can be excessive. If allowed to continue unchecked,online phishing scams threaten to undermine confidence in e-commerce asa whole.''

Phishing is one of the latest online financial scams plagueing onlineusers. Emails claiming to be from legitimate businesses, such as banksand credit card companies, direct recipients to a replica of the actualcompany's Web site. Once they arrive at the site, victims are asked to'update' their personal financial information, such as passwords,account numbers and Social Security numbers. The information is thenused to steal the person's identity, along with their money, and defraudbusinesses.

These new statistics were released just as President Bush signed a