5 On Your Side

Identity Thieves Go 'Phishing' For Personal Information Through E-Mail

Posted August 20, 2003

— A hook, line and some bait --


is a way scammers steal personal information over the Internet.

Phishing, also called "carding," is a high-tech scam that uses spam to deceive consumers into disclosing their credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information, accoring to the Federal Trade Commission.

Victims willingly give up their information without realizing who is getting it.

Linda Kuhn, of Raleigh, saw a story about phishing on WRAL's 11:00 News. When scammers tried to catch her, she was prepared.

Kuhn loves jigsaw puzzles and buys many of them online through the eBay auction site. She said she was not surprised when she received an e-mail she thought was from the company.

"This is an identical e-mail -- the logo, the set up, everything," she said.

The e-mail even came from an address that ends in ebay.com. The e-mail stated it could not "verify her current information" and asked for Kuhn's screen name and password, then wanted her to click on a link to provide more information.

"Something didn't feel right. Something didn't seem right with it," she said.

Kuhn noticed a few details were wrong and forwarded the e-mail to eBay. Within hours, she received a reply warning that the e-mail was fake.

"I said to my husband,'I knew it. I knew I was right. I knew something was fishy,'" she said.

It turns out Kuhn was the target of a growing problem called phishing-- the practice of duplicating legitimate e-mail to persuade users to give personal information.

Companies say with today's technology, phishing is easy to do and easy to get away with.

The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers not not bite. Never give out private information, such as credit card numbers, drivers license or Social Security numbers or the phishers could steal your identity.

"It still stuns me and it frightens me," Kuhn said.

She said she is thankful she did not get hooked into giving up any personal information and plans to keep her eyes open for more suspect e-mail.

It takes very little effort to send out hundreds of thousands of the e-mails each day. If just 10 people reply with their information, that is considered a good catch for the phishermen.

The bottom line is


reply to an e-mail asking for this type of information. Call the company directly.


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