TALLINN - Internet con-artists phishing for personal information and PIN numbers are hammering bank customers hard. SEB Uhispank the country's second biggest bank say they are the latest to be hit.
"This wasn't very professionally done and there wasn't even any attempt to hide that fact. But there were still people who honestly fell for it," said Tammo Otsasoo, director of the e-Technology division in SEB.
Phishing is becoming a widespread crime despite that fact that most of it originates abroad and Estonian is not widely spoken.
"Take what happened in the beginning of the year, which is a good example. Hansapank was attacked, but at the same time, Swedish, German and English banks were also attacked. They simply choose different bigger financial institutions where there's lots of money, but attacks are not necessarily directed against a certain bank," said Margus Simson from Hansapank.
Phishing works by sending e-mails and sometimes even ordinary letters to customers claiming to be from the bank and telling the customer that they need to send the bank their information for security reasons. Often the same letter is sent 's albeit with different formatting 's as bulk mail from apparently different banks. If the client is gullible, they will give out the information.
Con-artists also use viruses and Trojan horses, which took bank codes and other materials from customers' computers. As the bank's security systems have become more sophisticated, they are able to eliminate most of these attacks before they reach the client. Because of increased security, con-artists found it is easier to cheat customers by writing to them directly.
Banking security officials said there are a large number of frauds and computer viruses running at any given time that can allow con artists to access their victims' accounts.
They said that though most people are not deceived some are and that makes it worthwhile for the criminals.
"[An average of] 10 percent of people actually insert the codes requested. That statistic comes from couple of years ago, though, and I'd like to hope the number is smaller now," Simson said.
It is common for Internet banks to be subject to frauds. Estonian Internet banks are trying to get people to use ID cards and PIN calculators instead of code cards. SEB Uhispank and Hansapank have also cut the daily withdrawal limit to 5,000 kroons (320 Euros).