FDIC warns of e-mail scam

The e-mail includes a link to a Web site set up to look like the FDIC's own site

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is warning consumers not to fall for an e-mail scam designed to trick them into giving up personal information, including their bank account numbers.

A spokesperson for the FDIC said the agency first learned about the scam Friday, when people began calling FDIC Consumer Call Centers in Kansas City, Mo., and Washington to ask about the e-mails they had received.

The e-mail, which purports to be from the FDIC, says that Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has advised the agency to suspend all deposit insurance on the e-mail recipient's bank account because of suspected violations of the USA Patriot Act.

The fraudulent e-mail, which includes a link to a Web site set up to look like the FDIC's site, says that deposit insurance will be suspended until the consumer provides personal data, including bank account information. This scam is an example of "phishing," in which fraudulent e-mail messages that appear to come from legitimate businesses are used to gain victims' personal information for purposes of identity theft (see related story).

The Patriot Act, passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, requires financial institutions, after they have notified the U.S. Department of the Treasury, to share information with one another in order to identify and report schemes that may involve money laundering or terrorist activity.

The FDIC spokeswoman said the e-mails have been tracked down to servers in Pakistan, Taiwan, China and Russia. She said the FDIC is working with the Internet service providers involved and with the FBI to identify the source of the e-mails and disrupt their transmission.

The FDIC, which alerted its banks to the scam, said financial institutions and consumers shouldn't access the link and shouldn't release any personal information.

The FDIC was established by Congress in 1933 to maintain stability and public confidence in the nation's financial system.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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