Phishing scam affecting email services such as Hotmail and GMail is spreading

For precaution, now is the time to take a few minutes to change the password and any security questions for your e-mail account.

The scam was highlighted when several lists, detailing more than 30,000 names and passwords from Hotmail, Google and Yahoo web mail accounts were posted online. The BBC reported that it saw on the same Web site,, a list of more than 20,000 addresses and passwords for e-mail accounts from Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Gmail, EarthLink and Comcast.

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have confirmed that the addresses are real and that the information was stolen through phishing schemes and are helping the victoms recover their accounts.

It unknown whether the account information was stolen in one phishing attack or pieced together over multiple attacks, said David Jevans, the chairman of the Anti-Phishing Working Group. But he added that: “The latter scenario is the most likely, as we have not seen massively heightened phishing attacks on these brands [e-mail service providers] in spamtraps/phishtraps. These lists are probably a collation of months of sustained phishing attacks.”

Phishing is large and growing Internet scam that tricks users into giving over login details for their email, social network or financial accounts, often involving believable email messages that send people to fake websites that look legitimate.

A word of advice: change your passwords regularly.

Stolen email accounts are also used in wire transfer scams. Attackers pretend to be account owners and email people in their contact lists claiming that they are in need of money for an emergency.

"People should write down their web based passwords. That's one way of making sure that you can remember a "strong" password," said Sean Sullivan, a security advisor at F-Secure.

"This tends to go against the conventional wisdom but it just makes more sense. People use weak passwords because they cannot remember the strong ones."

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