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CONSUMER ALERT- Attorney General Long Warns of New ID Theft Scam: Pharming

CONSUMER ALERT- Attorney General Long Warns of New ID Theft Scam: "Pharming" 

PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Larry Long is warning South Dakota consumers who bank on-line to be wary of a new internet scam called "pharming." This scam is another attempt to steal personal information, but the catch is that it is much more sophisticated. "Pharmers" redirect users from legitimate commercial websites and lead them to fraudulent ones. The bogus sites will look much like legitimate sites, but when users enter their login name and password, the information is captured by the crook. 

The scam works in two different ways. First, the "pharmer" infects your computer with a virus. When you type in the web address of your bank the virus within your computer sends you to a fake site. Second, the "pharmer" hacks into your service provider’s server and changes the numerical address of the bank’s website to the numerical address of their fake site. Either way the "pharmer" captures your personal information without you suspecting any wrongdoing.

"The ‘pharming’ attacks are much more menacing than other internet scams," said Long. "As consumers, we need to keep our guard up and continually work to keep from becoming a victim of identity theft."

Ways to avoid pharming attacks:

  • Run up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software regularly on your computer.  
  • Exercise caution over which programs you decide to run.  
  • Install personal firewalls.  
  • When going to a supposedly secure site, make sure the web address in your browser starts with HTTPS, which indicates a secure site, not just HTTP.  
  • Double click on the padlock icon to see who owns the security certificate. A fake one either won’t have a certificate or it will be owned by an entity that appears to be unrelated.

If your bank’s website has changed in any way or if the website requests different login information than it previously did, you should be concerned. This might be a red flag that you are experiencing a "pharming" attack. If you feel uncertain about a site it would be wise to contact your financial institution by phone for verification.

If you suspect you have been a victim of a "pharming" attack or any other internet scam, contact the Consumer Protection Division at 605-773-4400 or consumerhelp@state.sd.us.

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