“Protect Your Identity,” on page 107 of the December 2004 issue of PC World, takes an in-depth look at “phishing,” the most rapidly growing method of identity theft. The article addresses this increasing problem, how most “phishers” operate, and why it is so popular. The issue is on newsstands now and the article can be found online at http://find.pcworld.com/45616.
“Phishing” has become more prevalent for one reason: it’s easy to pull off. Instances of new, distinct e-mail attacks have grown by about 40 to 50 percent monthly. Generally disguised as a legitimate email, “phishers” forge the “from” field of a message so it appears to come from a reputable company. It urges the recipient to click on a link to update and/or verify account information and the link then leads to a Web address and page that look genuine. Once the vital information has been entered, the “phishers” have what they need to rob individuals of their identity, establish new mailing addresses, set up fake businesses, and open new bank or credit card accounts.
Included are two sidebars with information vital to staying safe online: “How to Keep Identity Thieves at Bay” and “Don’t Get Reeled In: Antiphishing Tools.” A section of the article is also dedicated to helping individuals reclaim their names if the identity theft has already occurred.
Over the past five years, 10 million people have fallen prey to some sort of identity theft: the number of complaints quadrupled between 2000 and 2004. Victims spend approximately $1,400 and 600 hours to clear their names and the average amount the fraudsters spend in their victims’ names is $10,200. The total loss to consumers due to identity theft has reached nearly $4 billion, while legitimate businesses have lost an estimated $33 billion due to unrecovered merchandise and related overhead costs dealing with the problem.