You've got Scam! ID harvest scam targets AOL users

Early Warning

It used to be the worst that could come from a kiss was a cold sore or a song by Hot Chocolate.

Now with the Net, we can get identity theft and stolen Internet access into the bargain.

Scammers are sending out invitations targeted at AOL members asking them to click on a link, which states that recipients have seven unread email messages.

These invitations, although they are been sent via spam messages from dodgy sounding addresses like AOLIsDirectToYoudsfh5k@oxw8zri4.com to world+dog, link to a plausible Web site (www.members.aol.com/mruona2/message/index.html).

This page, which is reached through Russian redirection service InstaKiss, mimics a service from America Online that lets AOL users read emails on line.

The site prompts potential victims for their AOL usernames and passwords.

Andrew Goodwill, of Early Warning, a scheme to warn UK retailers of credit card fraudsters, said he was notified of the problem by a member.

"We believe that this email and the site you are directed to is a con, set up to collect your user name and password, so that your details can be used," he told us.

"These scams and cons are happening too often and great care should be taken when receiving emails of this nature and we advise that if you are at all unsure please do not enter your details."

According to Goodwill, more people than usual may be duped because of the plausibility of the fraudulent site.

Only on closer inspection of the links from www.members.aol.com/mruona2/message/index.html, is its dodgy nature is revealed. Also, AOL is inherently mass-market, which means many subscribers are Net novices and insufficiently web-savvy to know a scam when they see one.

InstaKiss is not directly behind the scam but the service is not keeping close enough tabs on what its users are doing, Goodwill says.

An AOL spokesman expressed surprise at the method scammers are using to harvest details. "I can't imagine the circumstances where AOL would email someone to ask them to pick up messages. It's counter-intuitive. Members get new messages when they log onto the service."

He said users should "treat with caution" any such unsolicited message. AOL provides advice (AOL keywords: Scam or Security) for such risks. If users are still unsure of the validity of a message they should contact it via its freephone service, he advised.

Meanwhile Early Warning offers general advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of this AOL scam or similar frauds.

It advises that you should NEVER enter your personal details into a Web page until you are sure that the page is secure and belongs to the company you think you are communicating with. ®

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