Cornish computer firm Piran Technologies has warned internet users to be especially on their guard against bogus email scams during the first weeks of the New Year.
An estimated 4 million people fall foul of so-called “phishing” each year, responding to counterfeit emails designed to defraud them of bank details, passwords and other valuable personal information.
Piran Technologies managing director Mark Wright believes recent Christmas shopping, whether online or offline, could make ordinary web users more vulnerable than ever to email fraud.
“It’s especially easy to be fooled so soon after Christmas,” he explained.
“Many of us are aware of having spent to the hilt, or did some shopping online, so we may be less inclined in January to question an unexpected email from our bank, credit card company or online store.
“Usually phishing emails warn us of unusual activity on an account, or cite a problem with an order or delivery, which all seems especially plausible at this time of year. Then they ask you to just verify your security details before they can proceed… and that’s how they catch you.
“Unfortunately, such scams are growing in sophistication the more common they become.”
Just a few weeks ago, around 40,000 internet users saw their login details for Gmail, Hotmail, AOL or Yahoo! published online by phishing gangs, while FBI director Robert Mueller admitted to being taken in by a particularly convincing example.
Wright sympathises. “I’ve seen some very authentic-looking scams lately,” he added, “even an expert would struggle to tell a fake from the genuine article at first glance. They look right, carry all the right credentials, and even the web addresses they link to seem official.
“In truth, you shouldn’t rely on being able to spot a fraudulent email any more – today, it’s a case of awareness getting into good habits, and treating all emails with the same caution – Christmas may be gone, but the need for caution is as great as ever.”