Citibank warns of e-mail scam

DUSSELDORF, Germany -- Citibank, a division of New York-based Citigroup Inc., is warning customers to immediately delete a scam e-mail asking them to provide their user names and the first four digits of their bank cards.

The e-mail, which appears to come from Citibank with the subject "Your Checking Account at Citibank," warns bank customers that their checking accounts could be blocked if they don't provide their user information, the bank said yesterday in a statement.

Citibank is working with law enforcement officials to locate the source of the fraudulent e-mail. The bank has published a list of precautionary steps on its Web site to help customers avoid problems with unsolicited junk e-mail and is urging customers who receive suspicious online mail to alert company officials.

This is the latest example of "phishing," or sending official-looking messages telling recipients that, for technical reasons, billing information and identity data such as Social Security numbers must be submitted for their accounts.

In July, the U.S. federal government and Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. warned of a surge in unsolicited e-mail and scam Web sites designed to steal the identity of unsuspecting Internet users. The Atlanta-based provider has seen a spike since the beginning of the year in e-mail linked to phisher scams, which use spam to lure victims to Web sites designed to look like legitimate retail or corporate sites (see story).

In the same month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission settled a civil action against a 17-year-old California boy accused of tricking Internet users into giving him their credit card numbers and other personal information on a bogus Web site meant to look like America Online Inc.'s billing center. The settlement, pending approval by a federal court in central California, will bar the defendant from sending spam and force him to give up about $3,500 in profits from his venture, which ran from July to December 2002 before the FBI confiscated his computer.

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