April 20, 2004, 12:00 AM

Fraudulent e-mails provide fertile phishing grounds, anti-scam group finds

Reports of e-mail fraud and phishing attacks grew by more than 43% in March over the previous month, with eBay users the single largest target. That reflects a growth rate of 50% per month since December, according to data compiled by Antiphishing.org.

Reports of e-mail fraud and phishing attacks grew by more than 43% in March over the previous month, according to Tumbleweed Communications Corp., a provider of secure instant messaging software and appliances

The numbers are based on reports submitted to Antiphishing.org, which gathers data on such scams and is powered by Tumbleweed. Phishing attacks – which use spoofed e-mails and fraudulent web sties to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers online – numbered 402 in March, as reported to the web site, with an average of 13 new, unique attacks sent out to millions of consumers every day. That reflects a growth rate of 50% per month since December.

Though financial services institutions are categorically the primary target of such scams, eBay was the single largest target of phishing attacks in March, accounting for 110 unique attacks, Tumbleweed says. Ebay has been the organization most targeted since Tumbleweed and its allied Anti-Phishing Working Group started collecting data in November. PayPal trails Citibank, in the number two spot, as the third most-targeted company.

About 5% of the recipients of the fraudulent e-mail respond, experiencing potential credit card theft and identify fraud as a consequence, according the group. “Banks, e-commerce companies and ISPs need to help customers identify valid communications more effectively and avoid fraudulent offers,” says Dave Jevans, chairman of the Anti-Phishing Working Group and a senior vice president at Tumbleweed. “New anti-fraud toolbars being introduced by eBay and Earthlink are first steps in this process, but much more needs to be done to raise the bar and make it harder for phishers to make money at these scams.”

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