When most of us contemplate the holidays, we think of friends, family and fellowship. But Susan Larson has phishing on her mind. Larson works for SurfControl, an Internet and e-mail...

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When most of us contemplate the holidays, we think of friends, family and fellowship. But Susan Larson has phishing on her mind.

Larson works for SurfControl, an Internet and e-mail security company. In the past year, she’s watched this oddly named high-tech crime go from being a curiosity to a ubiquitous threat.

Every day, untold millions of spam e-mails are sent that seem to be from companies such as Citibank, eBay or America Online. The e-mails warn of dire things, such as account suspensions, that demand action. And they link to fake Web sites that ask for personal data: account numbers, PIN codes, Social Security numbers. Provide them, and you open yourself to identity theft.

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So far, customers of financial-services firms have been phishers’ prime targets. But Larson believes the holidays could spur attacks aimed at online shoppers.

If you get an e-mail from a company asking for personal data, check the real Web address first. Let your mouse hover over the link embedded in the e-mail — in most e-mail programs, the real address will pop up after a few seconds. In Microsoft’s popular Outlook program, the real link will immediately appear at the bottom of your screen.

Earlier this week, leading technology firms and the FBI announced they would work together to try to stop phishing attacks as part of a project dubbed Digital PfishNet. Businesses will be able to notify the FBI and other authorities instantly when they see a new phishing attack, participants in the Digital PhishNet project said.

Nearly 1,200 phishing sites and 7,000 unique e-mail messages were reported in October to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a consortium of businesses.

Online crime also is on the mind of Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who warns that fake e-mails from charities may crop up, too.

Abraham also has good advice for when you are shopping stores. Keep your packages in the trunk of your car, and keep your wallet in an inside pocket or your purse under your arm.

Finally, this great tip: Keep track of your credit card whenever you pull it out. Camera phones can be used to copy data.

Information from Reuters is included in this report.