Home Archive Pharming – Information about Pharming Scams

Pharming – Information about Pharming Scams

by Brett M. Christensen

Hopefully, an increasing number of web users are now aware of how phishing scams work. A typical phishing scam operates as an evil duo comprising a fraudulent email closely coupled to an equally fraudulent website. The scam email, supposedly from a well-known company or financial institution, is intended to trick recipients into following a link to the fake website and providing sensitive personal information.

Phishing’s more sophisticated first cousin is a technique known as “pharming”. Like phishing, pharming coerces victims into visiting a fake website and supplying information. However, instead of tricking recipients into clicking on an email link, pharming can secretly redirect victims to a fraudulent website directly from their web browser. Pharming effectively eliminates the need for “bait” emails and is therefore potentially more dangerous than “normal” phishing scams and can cast a wider “net” in which to snare victims. Even phishing-savvy web users could fall victim to a pharming scam without realizing it.

In order to make pharming work, scammers may compromise a victim’s system directly by secretly installing malicious software on his or her computer or modifying the browser’s hosts file. Alternatively, the scammers may use “DNS cache poisoning” to effectively compromise the DNS server.

What this means in plain English is that, even if you manually enter the web-address of your bank or financial institution directly into your browser, or click on a saved bookmark, it is possible that a pharming attack could cause your browser to unobtrusively redirect to a fraud site. If the scam site is made to resemble the legitimate website of the targeted institution, a victim could enter account numbers, passwords and other sensitive information before he or she realized what was happening.

Currently, pharming does not appear to be as common as phishing. However, many computer security experts are predicting that pharming attacks will continue to increase as more criminals embrace these techniques. To help protect yourself from pharming, you should make sure that the secure website you are visiting has a valid certificate of authority from a trusted service such as VeriSign. Before entering sensitive personal data on the website, click the “lock” icon in the browser’s status bar to view the certificate. Ensure that the name on the certificate corresponds to the site you are viewing. You should also run anti-virus and anti-spyware software, keep your operating system and browser updated with the latest security patches and use a reliable firewall. As with all aspects of Internet security, simple vigilance is a crucial defensive weapon. For example, if your Internet banking site suddenly seems subtly different in layout and styling and /or some of the links don’t work as expected, it is possible that you have been secretly redirected to a scam site.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,