E-mail Fraud And Phishing Attacks On The RiseAnalysis of unique phishing attacks showed a significant increase in February over January, according to Tumbleweed Communi-cations Corp., a Redwood City, Calif.-based Internet messaging security firm, and the Anti-Phishing Working Group. Tumbleweed and the working group released the "Phishing Attack Trends Report" for February 2004, an analysis of phishing scam attacks submitted to www.antiphishing.org, an archive of e-mail fraud and phishing attacks. The analysis identifies that e-mail fraud and phishing attacks grew by more than 60% in February as compared to January, with an average of 9.7 new, unique attacks sent out to millions of consumers each day.
Phishing attacks involve the mass distribution of "spoofed" e-mail messages with return addresses, links and branding that appear to come from banks, insurance agencies, retailers or credit card companies. These fraudulent messages are designed to fool the recipients into divulging personal data such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers and passwords and social security numbers. Because these e-mails look "official," between one percent and five percent of recipients may respond to them, resulting in financial losses, identity theft and other fraudulent activity.
Bad Auto Insurance Sites Drive Customers Away
Consumers would buy auto insurance on the Internet, but many insurers' online quoting systems are so bad they are steering business away. That's according to a study of 14 leading auto insurance Web sites conducted by Web Mystery Shoppers International Inc., an Alberta, Canada-based Web site assessment and testing firm. Nearly one-half the 476 Web Mystery Shoppers reported receiving error messages when they tried to get a quote, and more than one-third were put off by the sites asking for personal information that should not be required to get a quote, such as whether they own or lease their home.
"There's huge potential for auto insurers to increase sales and lower selling costs by making their Web sites more shopper-friendly," says Tema Frank, president of Web Mystery Shoppers International. "The differences between the best sites, such as American Family, and the worst were enormous-much bigger than what we typically see in our industry studies."
For example, only 11% of American Family's Web Mystery Shoppers received error messages, versus 70% at the worst insurance site. The following companies' Web sites were studied: AIG Direct, Allstate, American Family, Esurance, Geico, GMAC, Insure.com, InsWeb, Liberty Mutual, Progressive, State Farm, Travelers, Unitrin Direct, and Youdecide.com.
Nationwide Launches WebCast For Investment Advisors
Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Financial has launched a Webcast providing investment professionals education and practical tips to grow their qualified-plan businesses. The Webcast is free to investment professionals and is available at www.nw401k.com through the summer. It features Chris Barlow of KnowHow 401(k) LLC, a consultant and coach to investment professionals who service 401(k) plans. The Webcast also features Michael Butler, senior vice president of NFS Distributors Inc., the sales arm of Nationwide Financial. Butler highlights recent enhancements to Nationwide's retirement programs that are designed to help investment professionals assist their clients in making the right retirement plan choices.
One of those enhancements is a tool that models both retirement investing and distribution. The Nationwide preVIEW tool, located on the company's sales and service center Web site at www.bestofamerica.com, is designed to connect distribution and accumulation needs. Clients can view and contrast annuitization and systematic withdrawal distribution strategies based on their projected investments. If the calculated investment amount results in a shortfall when distributed as monthly income, the investment professional can work backward and display what modifications can be made to help fill in the gap.
New York Life Site For African-American Consumers
New York Life Insurance Co. has unveiled an online resource for African-American consumers, which is intended to increase awareness of the protection and wealth-building aspects of life insurance, annuities and the New York-based company's array of financial products. Located at www.newyorklife.com/africanamerican, the site is updated regularly with articles targeted toward individuals, families and business owners. In addition to describing details of insurance and financial planning, the site contains information on the company's commitment to diversity, supplier diversity program, diversity-themed messages in its current advertising campaign, job postings, and various awards for being an outstanding employer in the African-American community.
Jefferson Pilot Introduces E-Delivery For Variable Policies
Greensboro, N.C.-based Jefferson Pilot Financial has launched an electronic delivery service for owners of its variable universal life and variable annuity policies. The service is available on the company's public Web site at www.jpfinancial.com. It enables owners of variable policies to view product prospectuses and semi-annual and annual reports online.
California Blues Offers Online Benefits Administration
In an effort to make benefits administration easier and more cost-effective, San Francisco-based Blue Shield of California is offering qualified employer groups BeneTrac Web-based enrollment services at no additional charge. San Diego-based BeneTrac, a division of Hawthorne Benefit Technologies Inc., provides an electronic enrollment and administration system that provides a set of online tools for employers to manage multiple benefit plans from a variety of carriers.
Californians Can Compare Hospital Quality Online
California consumers can evaluate a hospital's performance on a new Web site that provides information on a broad range of quality performance indicators. The service, called "Choice Outcomes," is offered to the public by CaliforniaChoice, an Orange, Calif.-based consumer-choice exchange for small group healthcare benefits. Visitors are not required to be CaliforniaChoice members to access this information, which is available at www.calchoice.com. "Choice Outcomes" enables consumers to review hospital rankings for more than 160 high-risk procedures based on criteria such as the number of patients treated, degree of favorable outcomes, average number of days spent in the hospital and mortality rate as compared to the average of area hospitals.
Great West And Mega Life/Health Join Insurance-Pros
Great West Casualty Co., South Sioux City, Neb., and The Mega Life and Health Insurance Co., North Richland Hills, Texas, have signed on as subscribers to The Insurance Professionals Network Web site at www.insurance-pros.net. They join United Fire & Casualty Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Applied Underwriters, Alaska National Insurance Co., United National Insurance, American Southern Insurance Company, Winn & Company and Topa Insurance. As subscribers, they can search for professionals to fill critical positions, link their Web sites to The Insurance Professionals Network, and post an unlimited number with no time constraints.
Evolution Benefits, drugstore.com Offer Debit Cards For OTC Meds
Evolution Benefits Inc., Avon, Conn., and Seattle-based drugstore.com inc. have teamed to create a paperless, IRS-compliant system for electronically substantiating and adjudicating the reimbursement of over-the-counter medications (OTCs) eligible under flexible spending accounts. The program, available through the drugstore.com Web store, automatically recognizes and separates those OTCs eligible for reimbursement under flexible spending accounts (FSAs)--a benefit authorized by the Internal Revenue Service last year--as well as for prescription drugs covered under basic health plans. Purchases of eligible OTCs and covered prescription drugs can be placed on Evolution's Benny Card, a special purpose, debit MasterCard card, and electronically deducted from the consumer's appropriate Benny Card account(s). The result: fully adjudicated claims and substantiated transactions with no paper receipts or further verification required. For any items not qualifying for FSA or health plan reimbursement, the consumer can provide alternative payment methods.
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