Mastercard battles phishing fraud

MasterCard has shut down 1,400 phishing sites websites in the last eleven months.

MasterCard has shut down 1,400 phishing websites in the last eleven months alone, the company has revealed at its annual Global Risk Management Symposium.

The figures were drawn from its "Operation STOP IT (Identity Theft)" initiative, which MasterCard set up in June of last year in response to the massive rise in identity crime. The scheme has also seen the company close over 750 sites that were purporting to sell illegally-held credit card information, and stopped a claimed 35,000 MasterCard account numbers from being used by scammers.

According to the official press release, the program has led to US authorities being able to target the fraudsters directly, arresting 27 people in October 2004, and preventing "hundreds of millions of dollars of loss".

"The investigation also has resulted in a significant disruption of cyber criminal activity targeting the financial infrastructure of the United States and demonstrates how industry and law enforcement can cooperate to trounce these types of crimes," the release continues.

Operation STOP IT is not entirely for the benefit of the public alone, however, as MasterCard has partnered with NameProtect to offer a fraud-fighting system to institutional customers "at an exclusive reduced rate".

The system allows participating companies to access a number of services designed to prevent phishing attacks and other types of financial fraud.

Impressive as the Operation STOP IT figures might look, they pale in comparison to the scale of the problem now facing the financial services industry. Only last week, the anti-phishing working group (APWG) estimated that in March 2005 alone there were 2,870 active phishing websites in operation. In that context, shutting down 1,400 in eleven months is a creditable but nevertheless modest success.

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John E. Dunn

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