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New Guide Warns Consumers about Internet "Phishing"

Thursday, January 1, 2004

Regulatory agencies have published a brochure, Internet Pirates Are Trying to Steal Your Information, to assist consumers in identifying and preventing a new type of Internet fraud known as "phishing." With this type of scam, individuals receive fraudulent e-mail messages that appear to be from their financial institution. The messages often appear authentic and may include the institution's logo and marketing slogans.

These messages usually describe a situation that requires immediate attention and state that customers' accounts will be terminated unless they verify their personal information by clicking on a provided web link. The web link then takes the recipients to a screen that asks for confidential information, including:

  • account numbers,
  • Social Security numbers,
  • passwords,
  • place of birth or
  • other information used to identify them.

Those perpetrating the fraud then use this information to access consumers' accounts or assume their identities.

The brochure advises consumers:

  • If you're not sure the e-mail is legitimate, go to the company's site by typing in a web address that you know is authentic.
  • If you think the e-mail message might be fraudulent, do not click on any embedded link within the e-mail. The link may contain a virus.
  • Do not be intimidated by e-mails that warn of dire consequences for not following the sender's instructions.
  • If you do you fall victim to a phishing scam, act immediately to protect yourself by alerting your financial institution, placing fraud alerts on your credit files and monitoring your account statements closely.
  • Report suspicious e-mails or calls from third parties to the Federal Trade Commission either through the Internet at or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT.

The brochure is on the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's web site,