NASD Identity Theft Alert

The NASD Issues a Phishing Alert

By Mark J. Astarita, Esq.

Washington, D.C.—NASD issued an Investor Alert outlining ways investors can protect themselves from online identity theft.

The fastest growing online identity theft scam is “phishing” – a scam that uses legitimate-looking spam email to lure investors into revealing their brokerage account or bank information, Social Security numbers, passwords and other types of confidential information. According to an industry study by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (, the number of unique phishing attacks has grown dramatically in 2004 – from 176 in January to 1,197 in May.

Other online identity theft scams include Trojan Horses and Brokerage Firm Identity Theft. Trojan Horses are malicious software programs that hide in files attached to an email or that you download from the Internet. Trojan Horses used in identity theft scams often take the form of “keystroke loggers” – programs that log the keystrokes the investor types, allowing scamsters to find the investor’s usernames and passwords and giving them access to the investor’s online accounts.

Some scamsters are copying brokerage firm web sites – creating phony web sites that misappropriate the name or web site content of legitimate brokerage firms to solicit business from unwary investors.

“The Internet has revolutionized the way that many individuals manage their finances, and interact with financial service providers. With the click of a mouse, you can view account information, pay bills, research investments, and buy and sell securities. Unfortunately, “identity thieves” also can exploit the Internet,” said John Gannon, NASD’s Vice President for Investor Education. “While identity theft is a growing problem online, with some vigilance and caution, individuals can better protect themselves from falling victim to these scams.”

In its new Investor Alert, NASD offers investors detailed tips for protecting against online identity theft, including handling of suspicious emails and suspicious web sites, and keeping personal and financial information secure online.

NASD’s Investor Alert on Online Identity Theft can be accessed at

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Mark Astarita is a nationally recognized securities attorney, who represents investors, financial professionals and firms in securities litigation, arbitration and regulatory matters, including SEC and FINRA investigations and enforcement proceedings.

He is a partner in the national securities law firm Sallah Astarita & Cox, LLC, and the founder of The Securities Law Home Page -, which was one of the first legal topic sites on the Internet. It went online in 1995 and is updated daily with news, commentary and securities law related links.