The US federal government and Internet service provider (ISP), EarthLink, recently warned of a surge in unsolicited [spam] email and scam websites that are designed to steal the identity of unsuspecting Internet users.
The ISP has seen a spike since the beginning of the year in email linked to so-called “phisher” website scams, which use spam to lure victims to sites that were designed to look like legitimate retail or corporate sites, company spokesperson, Carla Shaw, said.
Victims were often told they needed to update personal account information with a company. Once at the scam site, victims were asked to “re-enter” sensitive information such as their social security number, account password or even credit card numbers into a form.
That information was captured by the scam website’s operators and used to perpetrate identity theft, EarthLink said.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that it had seen a “steady increase” in complaints about the phony sites.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that it was working closely with EarthLink as well as law enforcement to warn consumers about the scams.
According to the Aberdeen Group identity theft would cost the world $US221 billion this year. The current trajectory would push the cost of identity theft to $US2 trillion by the end of 2005.