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Phishing fraudsters are using promises of financial discounts to trick unwary users into handing over their credit card details.

Scam emails that form the basis of the fraud claim to be part of MasterCard's SecureCode scheme. Con men are attempting to exploit a lack of familiarity with the recently introduced programme, which ironically promises to offer greater security to credit card transactions.

Phishing emails attempt to lure prospective marks into "signing up" to SecureCode, by offering a 16 per cent discount on future purchases made with the card. More typically, phishing campaigns ask users to confirm details for maintenance purposes or due to database corruption.

In reality, users that click on the link contained within the email are redirected to a phishing site, set up to look almost identical to the genuine MasterCard website. Visitors are then asked to supply confidential information including credit card expiration date, date of birth, and the three digit security code located on the back of the card - enough information for the cybercriminals to abuse the compromised account themselves and sell on the details through the underground black market.

The scam emails were intercepted by net security firm Sophos.

"MasterCard has been very successful in positioning SecureCode as the answer to online fraud, and with so many computer users growing increasingly worried about the risks of shopping online, the prospect of greater security and money off can be too much to resist," said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos.

"Computer users must be wary of simply clicking on links in unsolicited emails and should take time to verify the site address first - it may take a little longer, but will protect your money and identity from preying cybercriminals in the long run. Also, everyone needs to use a little common sense - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is," she added. ®

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