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How the Grinch spammed Christmas
Computer security firm says 90 percent of all e-mail will be spam; offers tips to avoid trouble.
November 17, 2004: 7:22 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - As the holidays approach, a leading computer security company is warning that during this hectic season consumers are more at risk to be taken advantage of by spammers and Internet-related scams.

According to FrontBridge Technologies Inc., which provides filtering services to block unwanted e-mail, the holidays traditionally see a rise in spam and Internet scams.

Dan Nadir, a FrontBridge executive, said that as more consumers use the Internet and e-mail to buy and send gifts, spammers will likely be in high gear sending out "record numbers of e-mails to close out the year on a high note."

The company also sees an increase in phishing, a fraudulent practice in which official-looking but false documents purporting to be from banks, government agencies or other institutions are sent in order to lure victims into disclosing sensitive information like bank account or social security numbers.

Of the 3 billion messages FrontBridge filtered in October, more than 87 percent were spam, marking the ninth straight month where spam increased, according to the company.

Although people should be constantly vigilant, Frontbridge has found that the percentage of spam e-mails accelerates right after Thanksgiving, continuing to climb until early January. During this holiday season the Internet safety company expects 90 percent of the e-mail it filters to be spam.

Here are some tips from FrontBridge to help you reduce spam and protect your vital information:

Do not open or reply to e-mail or attachments that request personal or financial information

  • Legitimate organizations typically do not ask for confidential information via e-mail.
  • If you have a concern about your account, use a verified phone number to make inquiries.
  • Never click on a link from within an e-mail to access a site. Always type the address in a new browser session.
  • Never click on links in questionable messages as most phishing e-mails direct you to a fraudulent site.

Check online statements frequently

  • Open your financial institutions Web site in a new browser session to review account statements. Check for unauthorized activity and report any problems immediately to your financial institution.

Look for secure Web sites

  • Avoid sharing personal or financial information via e-mail. Transactions with financial institutions, government agencies, and e-commerce sites should be conducted over secure Web sites. Look for addresses that begin with "https:" The "s" indicates a secure channel. Some secure sites are marked with a padlock icon, but be wary as some fraudulent e-mails have forged these security icons. Make sure that your organization is a trusted provider.

Report suspicious activity

  • Forward fraudulent e-mails to the real organization the fraud was attempting to copy. Most companies have set up specific addresses to compile information on fraud attempts.

Don't buy "Spamvertised" holiday gifts

  • Spammers exist because of the one-in-a-million chance that someone will buy their product or subscribe to their service. Remove the incentive and you'll minimize spam's effectiveness.

Pay attention when filling out online forms

  • The holidays mean e-cards and online photo sharing. Even legitimate sites make it easy to inadvertently sign up for a mailing list.

Be careful giving your e-mail address to strangers

  • Use a disposable e-mail address if you are unsure about the organization and how the information will be used - many sites offer free ones. If the address is sold, you'll know who did it and if the address is spammed, it can be quickly discarded.
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