Phishing scams: who pays for losses?

The number of phishing scams continues to grow: the Anti-Phishing Working Group recording its highest number of unique phishing web sites ever in June 2006. And, of course, financial services continues to be the biggest target for the phishers.

Clearly the losses from this type of financial fraud are high. But who pays? Well, in a case reported today, the bank did. Bank of Ireland has agreed to compensate customers who fell victim to phishing scams. However, this was a ‘goodwill gesture’, rather than matter of general policy.

Of course, it’s hardly surprising if financial institutions are reluctant to routinely compensate customers in such situations. The key issue for consumers is being able to demonstrate that they have taken adequate precautions to avoid falling victim to phsihing scams, as highlighted by APACS [APACS, the UK payments association] in one of its BankSafeOnline FAQs.

The onus will be on the customer to demonstrate that they have ‘acted with reasonable care’. The increasing sophistication of the phishers may make this harder to do.

We all know how complicated it can be to demonstrate that you have ‘acted with reasonable care’, so we’re providing a checklist that should help you. Pin it up on the wall and be sure to follow the recommendations.

  • Don’t fill out forms contained in e-mails. You should only fill out forms on secure web sites – after you have typed in the URL yourself, not clicked a link in an e-mail!.
  • Only enter information on a secure web site. Check that the URL starts with ‘https://’, look for the padlock symbol in the status bar of your browser to confirm the site you’re accessing and double-click the padlock to check the web site’s certificate and ensure that it really comes from that site.
  • Always use the latest version of your browser and install any security patches that have been issued.
  • Don’t divulge passwords, PINs, etc. to anyone else; and don’t even type confidential data like this on a web site unless you’ve gone through this checklist first.
  • Check bank account records regularly and report anything suspicious to your bank immediately.

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