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eBay users face fake emails risk

Online auction house eBay has confirmed reports that some of its users have been hit by spam e-mails that may be able to gain their account details.

eBay said the problem was industry-wide, and that its sites were as secure as possible. The scam targets eBay users with infected spam or mail-shot emails. If the e-mails are opened, they can record what keys the user types and send the details back to the criminals behind the spam mail shots.

The method, known as 'key logging', allows the fraudsters to find the eBay user's exact password, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) has confirmed. A spokeswoman for the NHTCU said the agency would not be making any further comment.

Once they have gained access to users' accounts, the criminals can steal from them in a number of ways. Firstly, they can pretend to be a seller and inform the eBay users that one of their specific recent failed bids has, after all, been successful, and ask for payment. The goods in question obviously never appear.

Fraudsters can also use an eBay user's account to buy an item put up for sale by one of their criminal associates. The way for users to avoid getting trapped by key logging is to ensure their computer's virus protection software is up to date.

In addition to infectious spam emails including the 'key logging' software, more simple email scams have also been targeting eBay customers. These generally work by the using fake emails purporting to be from eBay which ask for users to reconfirm their log-in details.

"Internet fraud is an industry-wide issue and we would encourage everyone to regularly update their virus detection software," said an eBay spokeswoman. "As part of eBay's on-going commitment to trust and safety, we work extensively with official online fraud experts such as the NHTCU to fight Internet fraud."

The spokeswoman added that eBay has an entire section of its site dedicated to informing users about best safety practice.

A number of banks and credit card customers have already been targeted by both fake emails and key-logging infections, but criminals are believed to have moved on to target eBay because of the auction house's giant popularity. It lists two million auctions every day.

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