MasterCard program combats phishing, black market

Credit card and payments company MasterCard International Inc. said on Tuesday 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 to shut down Internet sites and tools used by identity thieves, the companies said in a joint statement.

Phishing scams are a form of online crime in which unsolicited commercial ("spam") e-mail is used to direct Internet users to Web sites controlled by the thieves, but designed to look like legitimate e-commerce sites. Users are asked to provide sensitive information such as a user name 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 by almost 200 percent, to 1,100 in April, a 178 percent increase from March, according to figures from the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a computer security industry group.

Customers of online retailers such as eBay Inc. and CitiBank Inc. are frequently the attacks' 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, 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, of Madison, Wisconsin, 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 their customers, the companies said.

MasterCard and NameProtect will also pass any information on fraud to authorities like the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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. Inc., AT&T Corp., Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., Fidelity Investments Inc., IBM Corp. and Siebel Systems Inc. said they were forming yet another group to battle phishing attacks.

The Trusted Electronic Communications Forum has representatives from leading retail, telecommunications, financial services and technology companies. The new group will work with various federal governments, including the U.S.', 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.

Preview Mac OS X "Tiger at WWDC

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter

Comments