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Big email companies and online bankers fight phishing

Jennifer Collins Jan 30, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: We’ve all gotten that email supposedly from Bank of America, but with half the words misspelled. A producer here at Marketplace got one from Facebook, spelled F-A-S-E.

The word for that is spelled S-P-A-M. Today, some of the biggest names in email — Google, Yahoo, Microsoft — and online banking biggies like Bank of America and PayPal are launching a project to try to restore our trust in email.

Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins reports.

Jennifer Collins: The scams are getting more sophisticated, or so says Craig Spiezle at the nonprofit Online Trust Alliance.

Craig Spiezle: Millions of mails have been sent out purporting to come from the Better Business Bureau targeting businesses and consumers.

So I’ve actually received this Better Business Bureau email. I don’t have a business.

Spiezle: They don’t care about you. They’re trying multiple approaches.

Today, several companies are launching a group that will try to keep those scammy emails out of your inbox. The effort goes by the catchy name Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance, or DMARC. Brett McDowell is chair of DMARC.org and also is in charge of security at PayPal.

Brett McDowell: The pay off of what DMARC introduced is huge.

McDowell says it allows companies to verify their email and get anything that isn’t verified deleted.

By some estimates, phishing cost U.S. companies about $15 billion in the last five years, not to mention lost trust.

McDowell: No one wants their customers wondering whether or not they should read a notification.

Steve Myers: I mean this is not a silver bullet, and there isn’t a silver bullet for phishing.

Steve Myers teaches computer science at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Myers: Phishing is a form of con-fraud. We’ve been dealing with conmen for thousands of years and we’re not going to get away from them tomorrow on the internet because we implement this.

So Myers says before you click, still make sure an email has been spell-checked.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

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