MasterCard program combats phishing, black market

Company is partnering with NameProtect to fight online identity theft

Credit card and payments company MasterCard International Inc. said today that it is partnering with NameProtect Inc., an online brand-protection service, to combat online identity theft and a black market in stolen credit card numbers.

The two companies will combine their efforts against phishing scams and online identity thieves, taking "a more aggressive approach" to cyberscams that affect consumers and companies. MasterCard will have access to data from NameProtect's technology, which can search and filter large volumes of Internet content to find online scams. The companies will also work with law enforcement agencies to shut down Internet sites and tools used by identity thieves, the companies said in a statement.

Phishing scams are a form of online crime in which unsolicited commercial e-mail is used to direct Internet users to Web sites controlled by thieves but designed to look like legitimate e-commerce sites. Consumers are then asked to provide sensitive information such as a username and password, Social Security number, bank account or credit card number, often under the guise of updating account information.

Phishing scams have surged in recent months. The number of scams reported increased 178% from March, to 1,100 in April, according to figures from the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a computer security industry group (see story).

Customers of online retailers such as eBay Inc. and Citibank are frequently the attackers' targets.

As part of the partnership, NameProtect will use its Internet detection technology and systems to monitor a variety of online information sources to identify new fraud campaigns. The company's technology can filter information from Internet domains and Web pages, as well as online discussions and spam e-mail to identify online trading rings, phishing attacks and other forms of online fraud, according to the statement.

NameProtect in Madison, Wis., will report information on new threats to MasterCard, which will issue alerts to its 25,000-member network of financial institutions using a service called MC Alerts. Those organizations can then alert customers, the companies said.

MasterCard and NameProtect will also pass any information on fraud to authorities such as the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service and Interpol.

The announcement from MasterCard and NameProtect comes amid growing concern among online businesses about the danger posed by phishing scams, which threaten to undermine public confidence in online commerce.

Last week, a cross-industry consortium of companies including Best Buy Co., AT&T Corp., Charles Schwab & Co., Fidelity Investments, IBM and Siebel Systems Inc. said they are forming yet another group to battle phishing attacks (see story).

The Trusted Electronic Communications Forum has representatives from leading retail, telecommunications, financial services and technology companies. The new group will work with various governments, as well as standards organizations and companies, to fix problems such as e-mail and Web site spoofing, which contribute to the fast-growing online identity theft problem.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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