Cybercriminals are combining technology, social engineering techniques and current accounts to defraud people struggling financially.
According to MarkMonitor, which specialises in protecting brands, 502 organisations were phished in the first quarter of 2009, which was an increase of 24% compared to the same period last year. Victims are tricked into visiting spoof websites where they are at risk of being defrauded.
Payment service providers were the most phished category, accounting for 42% of the total.
The biggest increase was in the social media sector, where phishing attacks increased 241% between the first quarter of last year and this year.
Financial brands are being used by cyber-criminals to attract consumers struggling during harsh economic conditions to online scams.
Between September 2008 and April 2009 there were 10,000 phishing attacks on four banks.
MarkMonitor searched the web for references to four leading US and international bank brands as well as recession-related keywords such as mortgage, refinance and unemployed. It uncovered 10,000 phishing attacks which was 36% higher than the previous six months.
It scanned 134 million public domain records and searched billions of web pages and spam e-mail messages in the six-month period.