Computer Fraud Targets E-Mail Messages

It's the latest buzz in the expanding world of computer fraud. Have you heard about "phishing" on the Internet?

Even if you don't know about it, chances are you're a potential victim.

Anyone who uses a computer is vulnerable to this latest high tech scheme. It involves an "official looking" E-mail, messages that often use the name of a legitimate bank or financial institution.

If you get such an E-mail, beware. It's probably not what it seems.

WLOX received an official looking E-mail from Southtrust Bank. It includes the bank logo. But the E-mail is a fraud. Southtrust's "real" web site explains its name is being used in an illegal phishing scheme.

"Bait it up, make it look attractive to the E-mail recipient. Send it out there and they go, oh yeah, you get a bite and they're reeled in and all of a sudden they have your information," said computer expert Mark Pardee.

He's the computer expert at WLOX who protects the company from computer viruses and fraud. His advice is to be wary of all E-mails; even those with an "official looking" link.

"Don't click on that link. Even if it looks like it's from your bank and it looks legitimate. Don't click on the link that's in the E-mail. Go to your own link you have stored in your computer and type in the address manually. So you know where you're going," he advises.

"Every crime that you see out there on the street is now being done via the computer and via the Internet," said Biloxi Police Investigator, Donnie Dobbs.

Dobbs says computer criminals will go to great lengths to try and steal your personal information.

"So that they can one, create identity theft. Two would be do what's called an account takeover. Where they actually assume your identity, obtain credit in your name as you and you never know about it," he said.

Anti virus software can provide some level of protection against some bogus E-mails. And there are plenty of these products on the market. But even the best software can't guard you against all computer fraud. Your best line of defense may be common sense.

"And if you have a question, call somebody at the bank. Forget about the computer altogether and use some of the old fashioned methods," said Pardee.

Here are some helpful web sites to better protect you and your computer: