The eMail message appeared to be a routine correspondence between two friends. "Check this out!" it read, then listed a web address.

But the note was fake, part of an online ruse called phishing that has become a scammer’s favorite way to get sensitive information from unsuspecting computer users.

The catch? The scammers were Indiana University (IU) researchers, the eMail an experiment.

"I didn’t know I was being used," said Kevin McGrath, 25, an IU doctoral student whose eMail address was one of hundreds used as "passive participants" for an experiment to study who gets duped by


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