|:: Phishing Scamsters Out to Hook Unsuspecting Consumers
Criminals are using phony e-mails and Web sites to steal financial and personal information
(What to do if you receive an email you suspect is a phishing scam)
Who is Taking the Bait?
Hundreds of consumers are finding themselves the victims of a high-tech scam known as" phishing." It involves criminals who hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and pretend to be a legitimate financial institution or credit card company. The fraudsters send out "official-looking" e-mails designed to trick consumers into divulging financial and personal information such as account numbers, passwords, user names, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive data. Most of the e-mail messages claim there is an account problem or warn of a possible account fraud threat. In many cases, the e-mail also includes a link to a fake Web site that has been set up to mimic the legitimate online business. Either way — the whole idea is to convince the consumer there is an immediate need to update their financial information. Many of those who receive spammed e-mail do not have accounts or customer relationships with the legitimate business that the e-mails purport to come from. This is because the fraudsters who sent them most likely used a "spamming" (mass e-mailing) technique to reach thousands of people. They are counting on the fact that some e-mail recipients will have an account or customer relationship with the legitimate company, and that they will believe the e-mail has come from a trusted source.
How Stolen Consumer Data is Being Used
Consumers who respond to phishing e-mails and turn over the requested financial or personal information may be putting their accounts and financial status at risk in the following ways:
Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams
- Phishing fraudsters can use the e-mail data received from a recipient to access existing debit card accounts to withdraw money or buy expensive merchandise or services.
- They can also use the data to open new financial institution or credit card accounts in the victims' names and use the new account to buy merchandise or get a cash advance. If the phishing fraudster opens new accounts with the victims' names, but uses an address other than that of the victim, the crime can be classified as identity theft.
- In addition, a phishing scheme can involve the use of computer viruses and worms to disseminate the phishing e-mails to still more people.
If you believe you may may be a victim of a phishing crime, file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a joint project of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center).
- Treat unsolicited e-mail requests for financial information or other personal data with suspicion. Do not reply to the unsolicited e-mail or respond by clicking on a link within the unsolicited e-mail message.
- Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if it is genuine. Visit a Web site or call a phone number that you know to be legitimate.
- Look for the lock. Prior to entering account information on any Web site, be sure to look for the "locked padlock" in the browser or" https" at the beginning of the Web site address to make sure the site is secure.
- Be cautious. Check your monthly statements to verify all transactions. Notify the credit union immediately of any erroneous or suspicious transactions.
- Forward any suspicious e-mails claiming to be from Visa or your Visa card Issuer to email@example.com.
- For more information on e-mail and Web security tips, go to: www.visa.com/phishing.