Fighting Online Fraud

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 10:41am

'Tis the season for scammers.

Traditional junk mail is usually just annoying, but online junk mail is increasingly damaging.

A popular scam right now steals an e-mail address from a real account, then sends a message with an empty subject line and only a link in the body.

Alex Heid is an "ethical" computer hacker, securing company networks from criminal hackers because he knows all the tricks.

Heid says these bogus e-mails seemingly from you or your friends likely means a virus infected the computer.

The person behind the virus re-sells all the stolen data to spammers on the black market.

"It's sole purpose is to steal credit cards numbers, log-ins and passwords and bank account information," Heid explains.

Online banking poses more problems.

Hackers break into your bank account unnoticed, send you an e-mail reporting a problem, then ask for your password and security question.

"In actuality it's the virus and once you enter the info it will make a money transfer," Heid warns.

The FBI set up the IC3 website specifically for complaints by people targeted by scammers, but online cases can be hard to prosecute.

Investigators must gather as much evidence as possible to build a stronger case.

Right now a lot of the scams originate in eastern Europe, Russia and China, and the problem continues to grow as more and more of these countries get high speed internet.

For now the best way to protect yourself and your computer includes changing your passwords every three months.

Format and reinstall your operating system then as well.

Avoid online banking or checking your e-mail from the same computer you use to surf the web,
and if possible, get a secondary computer just for high risk transactions.

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