Online scams are up sharply since the start of the latest recession. According to MarkMonitor, phishes in Q1 2009 are up 36 percent over the same quarter 2008. The current trend is toward mortgage refinancing traps and phony get-rich-quick investments.

At the same time, the quality of the scams is dramatically better than in years past. Fraudulent “advertising” sites look just like the real sites. They pepper their pages with trusted financial, TV and/or newspaper brands to give the impression of legitimacy. Some even include encryption to give a greater appearance of legitimacy.

There is also a new trend to use social media to find and con victims. Just because it looks like a blog, if the author is bragging about how much money they got and has a link to a “home business kit”, it’s still a scam. Beware of any offer that asks you for personal information up front.

MarkMonitor also reports a huge increase in suspicious domain registrations, especially domains including the keywords “foreclosure”, “mortgage”, “refinance” and “unemployed”. These keywords are being combined with legitimate company names or domains to create fraudulent clone sites. And while most phishes are still targetted against large companies, an ever-increasing number are exploiting the trust and brand of small businesses. (This is especially true if your legitimate site accepts payments over the web. Payment services frauds are up 285 percent over last year.)

Be on the the watch for scams. And help your customers watch, too. In this economy, you have a right to be a little bit paranoid about offers that look too good to be true.

To read more, download MarkMonitor’s whitepaper on “brandjacking” at

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