|Bigfoot's survey found widespread criminal attempts to ferret out crucial personal financial data from individual Internet users.
"Phishing" is the practice of using e-mail and Web site formats disguised to look like those of legitimate businesses such as Earthlink, eBay, banks and credit card companies in an attempt to obtain key financial data about individual consumers. The e-mails often read as official notifications from a bank about a user's account and seek to lure the user to a Web page, where he or she is asked for personal information such as credit card and Social Security numbers in order to "update" an online account.
One-third of consumers
More than one-third of consumers surveyed in New York said they have received such fraudulent or phishing e-mails. Sixty-four percent of them said they could detect such an e-mail when they received it.
Spam, or unsolicited junk e-mail, which used to be the No. 1 scourge of the inbox, is now less of a concern, with 57% of respondents saying the amount of spam they get has decreased over the past year. A majority of consumers also said the e-mails they received from companies they do business with are more targeted than they were a year ago. One big reason for this trend seems to be that consumers have become more educated about how to protect themselves against spam -- 65% said they use anti-spam filtering or software that helps to determine if the incoming message is authentic.
Al DiGuido, CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, said that thanks to publicity, consumer outrage and the federal Can Spam Act, which went into effect last year and has allowed for the criminal prosecution of spammers, consumers are aware of how to better protect themselves.
"I don't think there's been as effective a job done at curtailing this as with spam," Mr. DiGuido said. "Phishing is buyer-beware. Phishing will be diminished when people are completely educated."
The Bigfoot-sponsored study was conducted independently by RoperASW. Results are based on telephone interviews conducted in February with 1,004 adults who are 18 or older.