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Holiday Online Attachments and Screen Savers May Spread More Than Good Cheer This Season [24th November 2003]

ATLANTA, Nov 24, 2003 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via Comtex/ -- With online shopping expected to increase by more than 21 percent this holiday season, according to Jupiter Research's 2003 holiday forecast, EarthLink (ELNK) , one of the nation's leading Internet service providers, is providing safety advice for online holiday shoppers.

"Holiday attachments, screen savers and Web sites may spread more than good cheer this season," said Les Seagraves, chief privacy officer for EarthLink. "With more and more shoppers going online this season, consumers should use extra caution to safeguard their computers, credit card numbers and personal information. Just because the holiday season is upon us, it doesn't mean criminals and hackers have taken a break from their activities."

Consumer complaints about Internet fraud have increased substantially this year, according to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center. Already this year, the Internet Fraud Complaint Center has received more than 106,000 complaints, a 40 percent increase over the total number of complaints the agency received last year.

With this in mind, EarthLink's Seagraves recommended several tips for consumers to protect themselves online this holiday season:

1. Shop only from trusted online retailers with secure Web sites. Look
for the locked symbol at the bottom of a browser to ensure that a
Web site is protected from hackers and thieves, and make sure your
information will be encrypted during payment.
2. Don't respond to emails from online retailers, ISPs or other Web sites
asking for your credit card number or other personal information.
These messages may be phisher site spams, emails that look like they
come from a legitimate company but which are in fact fraudulent
messages intended to steal a consumer's personal information. (For
more information on phisher site spams, please
visit
http://www.earthlink.net/about/press/phisher/ ) Report
fraudulent or suspicious email to your provider, and contact a
retailer directly if you think there's a question regarding your
purchase.
3. Look for the shipping and return policies on a Web site, as well as a
retailer's physical location, phone number and email address. Make
sure the retailer clearly states the policies, terms and conditions
regarding purchases.
4. Look for a privacy statement. Before you buy online, look for a
privacy statement that says whether the site shares information with
outside parties and whether or not you can refuse to have information
about you collected or shared.
5. Be wary of holiday-themed email attachments, downloads or screen
savers. They may have embedded viruses or malicious code like spyware.
Spyware is a rapidly proliferating type of software application that
secretly forwards information about a computer user's online
activities to another individual or company without the user's
knowledge or permission. Left undetected, it may lead to increased
identity and personal information theft, computer corruption and
exposure to annoying pop-up ads.

Seagraves noted that the EarthLink Personal StartPage ( www.start.earthlink.net ) would be providing seasonal gift ideas as well as secure links to online retail partners. "With a little extra caution, consumers can enjoy all the convenience and benefits of shopping online this holiday season."

Sources:

Federal Trade Commission: Going Shopping? Go Global! A Guide for E- Consumers, and Holiday Shopping Online? (news release, Nov. 7, 2003)

Federal Bureau of Information: For the Family: Tips on Internet Scams Internet Fraud Complaint Center

About EarthLink

"EarthLink revolves around you(sm)." As a leading national Internet service provider (ISP) headquartered in Atlanta, EarthLink has earned an award winning reputation for outstanding customer service and its suite of online products and services. According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 Internet Service Provider Residential Customer Satisfaction Study(SM), EarthLink is ranked highest in customer satisfaction among high-speed Internet Service Providers. Serving approximately five million subscribers, EarthLink offers what every user should expect from their Internet experience: high- quality connectivity, minimal drop-offs and ISP-generated intrusions, and customizable features. Whether it's dial-up, high-speed, Web hosting, or wireless Internet service, EarthLink provides the tools that best let individuals use and enjoy the Internet on their own terms. Learn more about EarthLink by calling (800) EARTHLINK or visiting EarthLink's Web site at www.earthlink.net .

SOURCE EarthLink

Carla Shaw of EarthLink, +1-404-748-7436, or cell,
+1-404-849-1140, or shawcm@corp.earthlink.net; or Deanna Anderson of Manning,
Selvage & Lee, for EarthLink, +1-404-870-6834, or cell, +1-404-759-1890, or
deanna.anderson@mslpr.com



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