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Offline identity fraud steadily creeps upward every year, but ID theft online is raging out of control. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) keeps close tabs on Internet identity theft statistics by monitoring phishing activity. In April of 2007, the number of phishing web sites detected weighed in at 55,643 – an increase of nearly 35,000 from the previous month's totals. Compare that to the report of 4,564 in July of 2005, and it's easy to see that phishing schemes are a growing business.
One of the reasons for the sharp rise in occurrences is that phishers started incorporating tactics that allows them to put a large number of phish URL addresses on the same domain. With the average length of time for a phishing site to remain online at less than four days, the same-domain tactic allows phishers to cast a wider net to capture user information.
While statistics for the success rate of phishing scams is a bit unclear, ranging from a Gartner report quoting 3 percent and a recent study conducted by the University of Indiana claiming results of 14 percent, there is no argument that the schemes are successful, especially when you consider that a successful legitimate direct mail campaign only averages a 2 percent response rate.
With so much information available about phishing scams, why do people keep falling victim to them? Here's a clue: In a 2006 survey conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center, one of the multiple choice questions asked was, “What is phishing?” More than 50 percent of respondents answered, “I don't know,” and only one-fourth of respondents answered correctly.
No matter how much or how little time you spend online, educating yourself about ID theft and fraud scams is your best line of defense.