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Tips to Avoid Internet Identity Theft, E-Mail Scams

Criminals around the world are stealing credit card numbers, bank account passwords and other sensitive information in greater numbers than ever before. Many of them are using tools, easily found on the Web, that let them spy on the Internet habits of hundreds of thousands of people, from the sites they visit to the keystrokes they enter.

Some of the technology has been around for years, but security experts say organized crime and other groups are learning to use it in creative ways. Merely surfing the Web -- even visiting some familiar and trusted Web sites -- can bring dangerous exposure to criminals.

While virus protection and security software can help lower those risks, another scam is leaving many users on their own: e-mail "phishing," the random attempt to obtain account numbers and passwords by criminals masquerading as legitimate businesses.

The ploy is a hard one to defend against, and as NPR's Chris Arnold reports, it's seeing a big spike in activity.

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