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THIS WEEK’S FOCUS: Computer Security and Privacy


Ever receive an email that purported to come from eBay or PayPal or your bank or credit card company, asking you to click a link to update your personal account information? If so, I hope you didn’t get taken in and click the link; you were the recipient of a phishing scheme, which is the newest way for scammers to steal your personal information.

The term comes from the scammers fishing (or "phishing") for your information, by dangling that official-looking email as bait. The bait and switch comes if you click the link in the email. You won’t be taken to your bank or eBay or wherever; instead, that fake URL will take you another site, run by the scammer, which will be tricked up to look like the official site. (And you can’t tell a good site from a bad one just by looking at it; some of these phishers do a remarkable job of mocking up a fake site to look identical to the real thing.)

If you enter your personal information on this fake site, as requested, you’re actually delivering it to the scammer—which means you’re now a victim of identity theft. The scammer can use the information you provided to hack into your account, make unauthorized charges on your credit card, and maybe even drain your bank account.

It goes without saying that you should never respond to this type of email, no matter how official-looking it appears. If you want to make changes to your eBay or PayPal or credit card account, never do so from an email link. Instead, use your web browser to go directly to the official site, and make your changes there. No one from your bank or credit card company will ever ask you for this information via email. Be warned!


On March 18, 1834, the first U.S. railroad tunnel was completed between Hollidaysburg and Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The Staple Bend Tunnel was 901 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 21 feet high; it was designed for the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which was the first railroad to go west of the Alleghany Mountains.


Track all news stories related to online privacy and security at Privacy.org, a blog devoted to protecting privacy everywhere. Read all about it at http://www.privacy.org.

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