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US phishing losses hit $500m

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US consumer losses as a result of phishing scams have reached approximately $500m, according to a survey out today.

A survey of 1,335 US net users conducted by think tank the Ponemon Institute found that three in four (76 per cent) are seeing an increase in spoofing and phishing incidents and that 35 per cent receive fake emails at least once a week. Seven out of ten respondents reported that they have unintentionally visited a spoofed website and more than 15 per cent of spoofed respondents admit to providing sensitive private information including credit card numbers, checking account information and Social Security numbers.

Scam emails that form the basis of phishing attacks often pose as 'security check' emails from well-known businesses. These messages attempt to trick users into handing over their account details and passwords to bogus sites. The collected details are used for credit card fraud and identity theft. First seen more than a year ago, phishing emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated, directing users to bogus websites which accurately reproduce the look and feel of legitimate sites.

More than two per cent of all respondents to the Ponemon survey reckon that they experienced a direct monetary loss resulting from a phishing attack. Usually problems are noticed within a fortnight of a scam taking place but by then the damage is already done. Consumers want to see financial organisations doing more to combat phishing. The increased prevalence of phishing is making consumers more wary about ecommerce in general, the survey found.

The study was sponsored by TRUSTe, an online privacy non-profit organization and NACHA, an electronic payments association. The Ponemon Institute and TRUSTe are to present the survey's findings before the Anti-Phishing Working Group in Washington, D.C. TRUSTe et al are calling for the creation of a consumer education campaign to reduce the impact of phishing.

"Consumers should be cautious when disclosing sensitive information unless they have proactively initiated the online transaction," said Fran Maier, president and executive director of TRUSTe. "This simple consumer protection message needs to be conveyed through a broader consumer education campaign." ®

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