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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 15:32 GMT
The growing threat of cyber fraud
By Spencer Kelly
Click presenter

It looked just like the PayPal page - in fact I would say it was copied directly from the PayPal site - but the URL didn't look right so I decided to bail, but I was fascinated at just how quickly I had bought into the scam.

Home computer
Phishing for bank customers has been on the rise

It is called phishing and the scams are based on social engineering techniques which to you and me means confidence tricks.

I suppose the problem is that we are human. It is ironic that our very humanity is turning out to be one of the weakest parts of our online security armour.

We get an e-mail telling us we have won a million pounds if we click the link, and we bite.

We get an e-mail asking for our bank details, and we bite.

It is human nature and ironically it started off as a way of tricking people out of their passwords for a bit of a lark.

Bogus websites

But these days, the stakes are much higher, the gains bigger and the online world much more dangerous.

Millions of pounds are stolen from people every year as they are drawn to fake websites that invite them to divulge credit card or bank details.

The key to a successful phishing trip is to look as absolutely normal as possible, so as a user expects to see all the things you would expect to see, which of course is why it is so tricky.

Some of the dead giveaways are misspellings, strange looking URLs or a padlock icon in the page but not in the browser border - and it does not count if it is in the address bar either.

And do not forget that just because it has the first few digits of your credit card, part of your address or even your name, it does not automatically means it is trustworthy as these details are often available elsewhere.

So, it is not difficult to see how these emails have cost internet users dear.

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