Phishing. Not familiar with that term? I suggest you learn it now. It is used to describe a bogus web site, designed to look like an authentic web site. This technique is reminiscent of a plot out of Mission Impossible the TV show where the IM crew often fooled people into thinking they were in a different place than they really were by duplicating the environment. Why would someone duplicate a website environment? Read on.
I stopped by the church the other day just as my pastor was about to send personal information to a bogus site set up to steal account information. He had gotten an email from PayPal saying his account was going to be suspended until he logged in to provide the information that was needed to keep his account open. The problem is that the message was not from PayPal. It was an elaborate scheme to have people click through to a website they thought belonged to PayPal site and enter their logon and password. Once the bad guys capture that information, they can log into your account and make purchases. In this case, they were also asking for the bank account number on a secondary screen. He actually had already provided the logon and password when I got there. I had him change his password ASAP. Luckily he had not hit the send button yet to provide them with his bank info, which he could not change quickly like a password. He was lucky. Now he is smart, so he doesn’t have to be lucky.
I get these bogus emails for PayPal often. One time I saw that the address was PayPaI.com where the l (el) was actually a capital I (ay). So it looked for a moment like this one really was from PayPal. It is very easy to make a page look like another site. I actually learned how to program web pages by borrowing from other websites and looking at their pages and trying to reproduce similar effects. Once at work I created a replica of a logon screen for an application. When the user tried to logon, they were going to get whacky error messages such as “If you think I’m going to let you log on, you’re crazy.” I thought that trick would be a ton of laughs. I shared it with a co-worker who said I’d get into trouble, so I never pulled off that internal phishing scheme. I was just doing this for a joke. The guys on the internet doing this are not out for laughs. They’re out to steal anything they can. Banks and organizations like PayPal will not ask you for this type of information over the Internet. If they have a problem with your account, you will be contacted using more secure methods. So when you get those emails from Bank of America or PayPal etcetera, send that lure to the trash bin along with the emails from Africa telling you that you’ve been selected to receive some inheritance money or from anywhere telling you that you’ve won a lottery.
Here’s a couple of links that will give you more wisdom: www.microsoft.com/protect/fraud/phishing/symptoms.aspx.
Christians are supposed to be harmless as doves, but wise as serpents. So you might say this practical lesson in using the Internet is a spiritual lesson. Speaking of the Internet, a bill is going to Congress to give the president the right to shut down the Internet. Why in the world would someone want to shut down the information highway? Think about that one for a while. I’ll have a column in the next day or two which will shed some more light on it. See a story here: newswithviews.com/NWV-News/news162.htm