The Marketplace Report: 'Phishing' for Victims on the Web

Alex Chadwick talks to Bob Moon of Marketplace about a survey that shows nearly half of adult Internet users have received "phishing" e-mail, where scammers send deceptive e-mails to trick victims into giving up sensitive information like passwords or account numbers.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

I would guess that almost everyone listening to this program uses the Internet. Get this: A new survey says there's a 50-percent chance you've been targeted by Internet scammers, 50 percent. They try to trick you into giving up sensitive personal information. At the same time, some big financial firms are trying to shut the scammers down. Bob Moon joins us from the "Marketplace" news bureau in New York.

Bob, do I need to worry about falling into one of these Internet traps?

BOB MOON reporting:

Well, have you been on the receiving end of one of these phony e-mails, as far as you're aware?

CHADWICK: I did get--I got something from a bank that claimed to be from my bank but it wasn't to know what my account numbers were. And I kind of thought my bank should already now that.

MOON: Yeah, you need to be a little concerned about that. It seems a lot of us are being targeted by this identity theft scam. It's known as phishing. You may have heard about that...

CHADWICK: Yeah.

MOON: ...spelled with a P-H instead of an F. The scammers pose as a bank or a credit card company complete with company logos and Web site links in their e-mail and they...

CHADWICK: Very convincing.

MOON: ..try to trick you.

CHADWICK: Yeah.

MOON: Yeah, they are. They try to trick you into going to what turns out to be a phony Web site. It's often under the guise of a problem with your account, as you mentioned, and you're asked to type in passwords or account numbers that the identity thieves then quickly use to run up charges or empty out your bank account.

Well, First Data Corporation is one of the country's largest electronic financial transaction companies. They're based in Denver, and they conducted a phone survey of a couple thousand people and it shows that roughly half of adults have received a phishing contact, and 5 percent of those actually ended up being tricked into providing their personal information.

CHADWICK: Well, what do we do to stay out of trouble?

MOON: Well, these things really do look, as you say, even scary sometimes. `If you don't something, there's going to be trouble.' In fact, I printed out one of these that I got just the other day. It says, `We recently have determined that the different computers have logged on to your online banking account and multiple password failures were present before the log-ons. We now need to reconfirm you account information to us. If this is not completed by a week out, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely.'

CHADWICK: That's good. That's good.

MOON: Yeah.

CHADWICK: I like that, yeah.

MOON: Yeah. Well, one of the things I noticed is that I received several of these things. They never seem to address me by name, and the Federal Trade Commission also points out legitimate companies don't ask for details like this in an e-mail. And the FTC advises it's never a good idea to e-mail financial or personal details ever. Also, it's probably best to just go ahead and call the institution that supposedly is sending this e-mail and check it out and make sure it's authentic.

Today in the "Marketplace" newsroom, we're looking at some companies that are focusing on cutting down chronic absenteeism in the work force.

CHADWICK: Thanks a lot, Bob.

Bob Moon of public radio's daily business show "Marketplace," produced by American Public Media.

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