Computer Crime Research Center


Phishing for PayPal, q&a

Date: February 07, 2006
By: David Einstein

Q: I've been receiving more and more bogus e-mails lately purporting to be from my bank, from PayPal, even from my Internet service provider. They tell me that there's something wrong with my account and direct me to a Web page where I must verify my personal information, including my credit card number. At first I was amazed at how real some of the fake Web sites look, but increasingly I'm just irritated. Is there a way to block fraudulent e-mail?

A: The kind of fraud you're referring to is known as phishing, in which scammers try to get you to divulge personal information including account numbers, user IDs, passwords and credit card information. They do this by luring you to phony Web sites that often look like valid sites, complete with real company logos. Basically, phishing is malicious junk mail, so mail filters and anti-spam software can help. You also can get anti-phishing software that may be able to determine whether a Web site is suspicious and can block you from interacting with known phishing sites. Two free offerings are the Phishing Filter add-on for Microsoft's MSN Toolbar (download both at and the Netcraft Toolbar,

A simple way to verify whether a Web site is valid is to compare its Internet address with the address of the real company. If the part of the name just to the left of the .com is way different, there's a problem. Also, if the site purports to be a U.S. company but the address includes a country code for somewhere else, it's probably trouble.

Q: I'd like to download streaming music videos and Internet radio. I have Windows Media Player and Real Player, but neither has the capability. Is there software that can download streaming audio and video?

A: There is. Applian Technologies ( sells programs that can record streaming content -- stuff that you can play online, but not download. For your needs, the $49.95 Replay A/V may be the best choice. It lets you record audio and video streamed in either Windows Media or Real format. You can record Internet radio and TV, audio and video clips, even podcasts. And it can automatically record scheduled programs. About the only thing you can't record is content protected by digital rights management, which limits the distribution of audio and video that has been purchased online and downloaded.

You can try Replay A/V for free, and you should -- just to make sure it works for what you have in mind.

Q: I recently purchased a Pocket PC device that has built-in Bluetooth. I'd like to be able to transfer data wirelessly between the Pocket PC and my desktop computer, but the computer doesn't have Bluetooth. How easy is it to add that capability, and how much does it cost?

A: It's both easy and inexpensive. For readers unfamiliar with Bluetooth, it's a wireless technology that lets devices connect to each other over short distances. Named after a 10th century Viking, Bluetooth has been growing in popularity and now can be found in computers, cell phones, Pocket PCs, printers, headsets, mice, keyboards, GPS units and other devices.

You can give any desktop or laptop computer Bluetooth capability with a small adapter that plugs into a USB port on the computer. All major wireless equipment manufacturers, including LinkSys, D-Link and Belkin offer adapters, and you can get one for as little as $30. By the way, you also can buy an adapter to turn a USB printer into a Bluetooth printer. Those are a little more expensive, but not much.

Q: How can I tell if my Windows XP firewall is working?

A: Go to the Control Panel in the Start menu and double-click Security Center. It shows the status for the firewall as well as virus monitoring, and lets you know if automatic Windows updates are enabled. You can also turn the firewall on or off in the section for managing security settings.

Tip of the Week

A badly situated monitor can be a major cause of neck, back and eye strain. Place your monitor directly behind your keyboard, tilt it so that you look directly at the plane of the screen and adjust it so that the top of the display is at eye level. Also, position the monitor so that you don't have a light source directly behind it.
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