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An online risk monitoring and management solutions provider today announced its latest report Online Financial Fraud and Identity Theft which highlights the growth of Internet attacks and identifies the industries most at risk.

Using intelligence collected through its Internet monitoring technology, their security experts have identified that the two leading online identity theft risks, phishing and malware, increased significantly in the first two months of 2007 with the number being phished growing by 50 percent and malware attacks growing by 200 percent. As part of its research, the company has also specifically identified more than 1 million suspected stolen social security numbers on the Internet, in just the last two months.

The largest increases in Phishing attacks have targeted organizations in the following industries:

oCredit Unions – 584 percent increase

oAssociations – 329 percent increase

*Banks – 325 percent increase

oInsurance – 300 percent increase

oPayment Services – 285 percent increase

In computing, phishing is a criminal activity attempting to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. eBay and Paypal are two of the most targeted companies, and online banks are also common targets. Phishing is typically carried out using email or an instant message and often directs users to a bogus website.

Malware is software specifically designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner’s informed consent. The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software or program code.

Many normal computer users are however still unfamiliar with the term, and most never use it. Instead, virus is used in common parlance and often in the general media to describe all kinds of malware.

According to the Federal Trade Commission website, there were more than 686,000 complaints filed with the agency in 2006. The complaints, filed online or at a toll-free number, are shared via a secure database with more than 1,400 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and law enforcement and consumer protection agencies. “With a call or a click, consumers can file complaints with law enforcers across the country and around the world,” said Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the FTC. “These reports provide ammunition that helps law enforcers fight fraud and identity theft.”
Identity theft complaints represented 37 percent of the 686,683 complaints filed.

Other findings from the report include:

oInternet-related complaints accounted for 46 percent of all fraud complaints.

oThe percent of Internet-related fraud complaints with “wire transfer” as the reported payment method more than tripled between 2003 and 2005.

oThe major metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of consumer fraud reported were Washington, DC; Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, FL; and Seattle, WA.

oCredit card fraud was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, and employment fraud.

oThe most frequently reported type of identity theft bank fraud was electronic funds transfers.

oThe major metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of reported identity theft were Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, AZ; Las Vegas/Paradise, NV; and Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA.

The President’s Identity Theft Task Force has adopted recommendations on measures that can be implemented immediately to help address the problem of identity theft, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras announced. The Identity Theft Task Force, which was established by Executive Order of the President on May 10, 2006, and is now comprised of 17 federal agencies and departments.

“As with any crime, victims of identity theft suffer feelings of violation and stress, but in these cases, victims have the added burden of cleaning up the mess that the identity thieves leave behind,” said Attorney General Gonzales.

“Conquering identity theft demands that we work as a team to develop tools that strengthen law enforcement, practices that enhance data security, and programs that help consumers in prevention and recovery,” said FTC Chairman Majoras. “Through these initiatives, we are taking solid steps toward eradicating this persistent consumer problem.”

While no one can totally prevent this crime from occurring, here are some positive steps to decrease your risk of identity theft:

oDo not carry all of your credit cards, Social Security card, passport, and birth certificate. Carry them only when needed. Reduce the number of credit cards you carry to a minimum.