I was almost convinced, caught or ‘conned’ and it took a call to the head of security at eBay to confirm that the email I had received was part of a much larger ‘phishing’ scam; out to catch my credit card details and those of a million others,

Now I’m not unfamiliar with phishing, after all, I write about eCrime regularly in Computer Weekly. However, on this occasion I had been editing my account details inside eBay, when by sheer coincidence, an email arrived with the message: “Unfortunately, eBay has not been able to authorize your credit/debit card. Your credit/debit card information must be updated on your eBay account immediately.”

As I have only just registered on eBay and had bought my first items the previous week the request that I visit http://www.ebaydbs.com/ and “Use this secure form to update your credit/debit card information on your eBay account”, had, I thought been triggered by my updating my account preferences.

But hold on a moment. What is ebaydbs.com? It certainly looks like the eBay website but alarm bells started ringing in my head and so I picked-up the phone and called my contact at the company.

“eBay never sends out messages of this kind asking for a customer’s account details he told me. It’s a coincidence that you happened to be doing what you were doing when the mail arrived”. “Have a look at the header”, he suggested.

I did and the email return path goes to teos.isikun.edu.tr and so unless eBay hosts its server in Turkey, there’s something wrong. Of course, the web site resolves to a totally different address as well and exploits a well know weakness in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer but that doesn’t help those who have parted with their credit card details and if this almost caught me then it’s likely that a great many others may well to discover some unexpected transactions on their Visa statements next month.

Such phishing expeditions are a regular fact of life now for banks and for popular auction sites like eBay, caught in an arms race with criminals who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way in which they leverage gaps in the technology to deceive the individual. Fighting back once again, eBay has just launched a downloadable toolbar on eBay.Com which will glow red if one visits a dummy eBay site and this is expected to be available in the UK very soon. At the same time, large institutions, such as the banks are casting around for a foolproof method of assuring customers that what looks like the entry screen on a bank’s web page is actually the real thing and in a world of perfect digital copies, that isn’t always so easy.

The moral of this story is that you should remain deeply suspicious of any and every email you receive that asks you for any detail of your life. Information theft is now the fastest growing fraud in both the real world and in cyberspace and if you haven’t bought a personal shredder, then now, the Police tell me. It’s not just the British Government who want to know everything about you. The Turkish mafia do too.


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