FTC, National Consumers League, and Microsoft Warn of Phishing

    March 31, 2005

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), National Consumers League and Microsoft urged consumers to beware of phishing schemes aimed at stealing their identities.

Phishing is a high-tech twist on the all-too-common crime of identity theft, where spam or pop-up messages are used to deceive recipients into releasing personal or financial information into the hands of criminals. The FTC reports that identity theft was the No. 1 consumer complaint in 2004. And, for the first time, phishing appeared on the top Internet and telemarketing scams lists gathered by the National Consumers League in 2004.

Appearing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Lydia Parnes, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Susan Grant, director of the National Consumers League’s National Fraud Information Center and Internet Fraud Watch program, and Jacqueline Beauchere and Aaron Kornblum of Microsoft urged Internet users to exercise the same caution when doing business online as they would in the physical world and called for increased consumer awareness of phishing.

“Computer users can stop phishers by not responding to an e-mail or pop-up that asks for personal information,” said Lydia Parnes of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Just delete it.”

“Phishing is more than a dirty trick played on unsuspecting consumers — it’s a serious identity theft problem,” said Grant. “In little over a year it’s become one of the top scams reported to our National Fraud Information Center and Internet Fraud Watch program.”

“The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, transact business and educate ourselves,” said Aaron Kornblum, Internet Safety Enforcement attorney at Microsoft. “We must work together to stop these con artists from misusing the Internet as a tool for fraud. Microsoft provides consumers with the information and technology that will help protect all of us from this pervasive and destructive threat, and has filed legal action today against some of these individuals.”

Kornblum announced that Microsoft is filing 117 lawsuits against alleged phishers as part of its commitment to protecting consumers against phishing and other cybercrime. The company is filing the lawsuits today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle against John Doe defendants.

Through today’s sweep of John Doe lawsuits, Microsoft’s legal team hopes to establish connections between phishing scams worldwide and uncover the largest-volume operators.

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