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Irish consumers wising up to phishing scams

Just 4% would give account details

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New research indicates that online banking users are getting more savvy when it comes to responding to e-mails purporting to come from banks and building societies.

According to the study, which was conducted by TNS mrbi on behalf of the Financial Regulator, just 4 per cent of online banking users in Ireland said they would enter account details such as passwords on their bank's website in response to an e-mail.

Moreover, among individuals who use telephone banking, only 3 per cent said they would verify their account details over the phone if they were told there had been a security breach on their account.

The research also indicates that two in five people in Ireland now use telephone or internet banking.

The Irish figures come amidst reports that Britain is undergoing something of an online crimewave with news that there's been an 8,000 per cent increase in internet banking scams during the past two years.

According to a BBC News report, the British government's financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, has said it is concerned about the rise in phishing incidents.

Phishing attacks attempt to fool internet users into revealing sensitive information, such as log on codes and passwords for online banking, using emails and websites that appear to be legitimate.

The Financial Regulator's findings that online banking users in Ireland are wising up to phishing and keeping their account details to themselves will come as welcome news.

Over the past year, a number of high-profile phishing scams have been reported, including one in August which affected Bank of Ireland customers. Up to €113,000 is believed to have been lost by account holders responding to the fake e-mail, with one customer claiming to have lost over €49,000 after inadvertently handing over bank details to a bogus website. Others reported losses of between €5,000 to €16,900.

According to a study from electronic security specialists Sophos, which was published in February, nearly 60 per cent of PC-users receive at least one phishing e-mail every day. That research found that phishing is undermining public confidence in electronic commerce and online banking.

"The general advice is that banks would not contact consumers by e-mail claiming that they'd lost important banking details because this is both inefficient and unprofessional," the Consumer Association of Ireland's chief executive Dermot Jewell, told ENN.

"However, getting this message over to consumers hasn't been easy because many have a misplaced trust in e-mail which has arisen because it's become so commonplace."

"In the end, protecting yourself from phishing scams is about common sense and if people want to avoid following in the footsteps of our friend from The Simpsons and ending up going 'Doh', then they need to ensure that they don't give away personal banking details without thinking it through," he added.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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