I guess the holidays bring out the best in some of us and the worse in others. It seems that all I have been reading about lately when it comes to credit card industry news is all of the thievery that’s taking place. While somewhat alarming, I hope that by posting these stories that you become even more suspicious and maybe even a little bitparanoid about these phishing attempts. OK, maybe not paranoid, just extremely cautious about clicking on any links in the body of your emails, especially from the likes of say PayPal, Ebay or Wells Fargo. (We highly recommend that you DON’T DO THAT but more on that later.)
The latest incident takes place in San Diego. Mouses Keshishyan, 22, from Los Angeles, was sentenced this Monday to three years probation, 240 hours community service, and a $1,000 fine for duping America Online users into giving him their credit card numbers and other personal information. He was gathering the information with the intent to make fraudulent purchases.
Keshishyan created a number of Web sites that were made to look as if they belonged to America Online. He then sent emails to customers, prompting them to visit the phony Web site and provide their personal information. The e-mails claimed that the customers needed to provide this information in order to “correct billing errors”.
According to the U.S. Attorneys office, Keshishyan obtained roughly 100 different credit card numbers. Yet, for some reason, Keshishyan still had not actually made any purchases with the card numbers before authorities apprehended him. So it appears that no one was defrauded as a result of the crime, at least as far as authorities can tell up to this point.
Nevertheless, this is a great reminder to always ignore those emails you receive from financial institutions that ask you to provide personal information. If you think the email may be legitimate, log-on to the Web site directly rather than go through the link provided in the email. These links are typically “redirect” URL’s that appear to be legitimate. The redirect URL’s are designed to simply redirect unsuspecting users to another fake web site that is designed for the sole purpose of extracting banking or personal information from consumers. It’s very easy to get fooled by these emails as the fraudsters continue to improve the authenticity of the emails and the web sites designed to fool consumers.
So for God’s sakes, never click on a link in the body of an email — EVER! It doesn’t matter if it’s suspicious or not. Copy and paste the URL into a newly opened browser window to avoid being redirected unknowingly to a phishing site.