Monday, June 22, 2009

Watch Out for Net Scam: Contact Scraping

Left: Hey, don't you recognize me? I'm your friend!

I thought I'd heard of all the phishing and other scurrilous scams on the Internet, in some cases by receiving their messages. The Nigerian prince, the bank I never heard of asking me to verify my information, the PayPal request to do the same, when I didn't even have a PayPal account. I thought I knew them all. But "contact scraping" was a new one on me.

The author of this article in the NYT was victimized, as were all the people in his address book, by contact scraping. Lured by two e-mail invitations from a couple of people he hardly knew to see some photos each had posted, he entered his user name and password to see the photos, only to find there were none. The invitation was just a ruse to get hold of his contact list and send everyone on it an invitation to join a certain website. In this case, it was "Tagged." But users have had similar problems with a couple of other, similar websites.

“They’re using your good name to establish a connection,” said Peter Cassidy, secretary general of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a nonprofit organization with representatives from law enforcement, industry and government. . . .

"How do the companies benefit? They are expanding their user population, Mr. Argast said, which they can use to attract potential investors or advertisers. Whether those users are willing participants, or people like me, is another question."
So if you don't want some company to spam all your contacts with phony invitations from "you," be wary of giving up your password and username to anybody you don't know, or to websites whose integrity is questionable.

The Internet: it's a jungle in there.

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