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E-mail scams proliferate ABOUT ONE IN FOUR American Internet users falls victim every month to a scam that tries to con sensitive personal information from unsuspecting consumers, according to a study released by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Of those receiving the phoney e-mails, most thought they might be from legitimate companies seven in 10 were fooled by the e-mails, said the report. The study found nearly three-quarters of those surveyed use their computers for sensitive transactions such as banking, stock trading or reviewing medical information. That leaves phishers with a good chunk of Internet users to target.

In South Africa last year more than R100 million worth of known fraud transactions took place. Figures for January indicate that similar transactions have reached almost R5 million.

Internet banking clients of all the major banks are receiving e-mails warning them of the dangers of the scams and advising them to take extra precautions when transacting over the Internet. However, the fraudsters are using these warnings as an added loophole to slip through. Some clients were recently sent an e-mail stating that because the bank "take[s] the of [its] online banking users very seriously", it recommends they update their account settings, providing a link for this purpose. Everything looks bona fide, with FNB logos on every page, but the site is actually set up by phishers.

Selby Bokaba, the spokesperson for the South African Police Service (S), has said that despite numerous warnings, recipients of scam letters are falling victim to fraudsters. "It is a serious problem - that`s why we set up a commercial crimes unit to probe the scam," he said.

The has established a task team within its commercial branch to investigate 419 scams. It aims to reduce the amount of Nigerian 419 and lottery scam letters circulating by forcing hosting and phone service providers to immediately suspend services to fraudsters, or else face severe criminal and civil actions. The Scorpions and the Asset Forfeiture Unit have also been involved in clamping down on ringleaders.

Tags: Security