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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Peggy McCracken

Squarely Pegged

By Peggy McCracken

Internet thieves
reek sophistication

Paypal is a legitimate company that provides a quick and easy method of payment to Internet shoppers. It works sort of like a credit card, with authentication for both the buyer and seller. Hassle-free shopping makes it worth the small discount.

However, Internet thieves have glommed onto Paypal as an easy way to steal your identity and bank account numbers. I received so many fraudulent emails the past two weeks that I closed the Enterprise Paypal account for protection.

The first email informed me that I had added an email address to the Paypal account. As a precaution, I tried to log into my account, typing in for the URL, but found the password had changed or expired. To get a new password, I had to enter my personal security information, credit card number or bank account number. But how could I be sure I was on the real Paypal site?

I went back to the email and checked out the link provided to “update” my account. It looked legitimate on the surface, but when I held the cursor over the link and read the actual address at the bottom of the screen, it was different, and I knew it was not a Paypal site. Out of curiosity, I clicked the link to see if it looked like a Paypal site. It had the right colors, but the sizing was off, and some grammatical errors in the text convinced me that it was a fraudulent site.

Going back to the real Paypal site, I read their security instructions. One is to never click on a link provided in an email, and another was to forward such an email to . I have now forwarded eight similar emails. The last two were more sophisticated than the first. They had plagiarized the Paypal site code to make it look authentic, then added a paragraph with a link to their fraudulent “update” screen.

Folks, that makes me nervous. I have bought a lot of stuff over the Internet without incident, although I suspect some of the sites made their profit by selling my personal information. That is one reason I get 50 or more spam emails every day.

One of today’s offerings was a notice that my Credit Union account needs to be updated. Again, I don’t have a credit union, so knew it was a fraud, but I checked out the URL to confirm it. Even moving the cursor over a URL can cause something bad to happen to your computer, I’m told, so I may have picked up a cookie or virus or something that will eat my data.

Some days I wish the computer had not been invented. But I don’t think I could function without the Internet. Mine doesn’t go down very often, but when it does, I feel like my right arm was cut off. Best to remain vigilant.

“Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them.” Hosea 14:9, NIV

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise business manager. Contact her at

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