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Group Casts Phish Net

Digital PhishNet will give leads on identity-theft scams to speed enforcement efforts

A group of businesses and law-enforcement agencies has established an operation to combat the use of deceptive E-mail to solicit personal information that can be used for identity theft--also known as phishing.

Digital PhishNet aims to improve communication so that leads can be provided to law enforcement as soon as possible. "Phishing sites come up quickly and disappear quickly," says Stirling McBride, a senior investigator at Microsoft, a participant in the operation. "Unless law enforcement is brought in at the onset, they oftentimes don't have the ability to react quickly enough." America Online and EarthLink Inc. are among the companies involved.

One effort calls for company investigators to enter phishing-related data into a database that will be studied by the FBI.

Microsoft says that nine large U.S. banks are involved; none was willing to be identified. But Citibank is a popular target of phishers, who've set up Web sites disguised as Citibank's site and distributed E-mails with a link that asks recipients to enter account numbers and other personal data.

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