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Scam Alert: Terry Goddard Warns Consumers that Scam Artists are Phishing for Financial Data

(Phoenix, Ariz. – January 27, 2004)  Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard today warned consumers to be aware of an upsurge of e-mail scams, commonly known as "phishing" or "carding."   These e-mail messages appear to be from banks, governmental agencies, financial institutions, business firms such as PayPal®, eBay® or other Internet commerce transaction sites.  The e-mail messages look official because they include official-looking logos.

The e-mail will advise the recipient that something is wrong with their account, and that the victim should click on a link to “verify” personal and financial information.  (Attached is an example of a phishing email sent to an employee with the Attorney General’s Office).

By using the link provided inside the e-mail, the consumer will be diverted to a phony Internet Web site that appears to be an official site for the institution.  An “Online Validation" form will prompt a user to enter personal or financial information: name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card numbers and expiration dates, and PIN or security codes.    Sometimes the e-mails will threaten a consumer if he or she fails to respond.

“It is important to remember that these Internet sites, no matter how authentic they look, have nothing to do with a legitimate company,” Goddard said.  “No legitimate financial institution will send requests for personal financial data via email.”

Many times consumers are asked to download forms or other information, which could contain “Trojan Horse” programs known as spyware that allows identity thieves to invade a victim’s computer, giving access to personal information stored on the computer. 

Many phishers are hard to trace since they have the ability to create and dismantle a phony Web site quickly. “The key to stopping phishers is prevention, keep consumers from being conned by their schemes in the first place,” Goddard stated.

Goddard offered the following consumer tips to prevent identity theft:

  • If you receive a “phishing” e-mail, NEVER reply or click onto the provided link.  Legitimate businesses and governmental agencies never ask for this information via e-mails.  
  • Always be cautious whenever you open any attachment or download any file from an e-mail you receive, regardless of who sends it to you.  Be sure to scan emails for viruses and spyware.
  • NEVER provide personally information, such as Social Security numbers, financial or bank account information, to anyone you do not already know and trust.  If you are concerned over any aspect of your financial account, call the organization named in the email directly by using a telephone number that you know is genuine.
  • If you believe that you may have been taken in by a phishing scam, or that you are a victim of any Internet fraud, you may contact the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC), a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center.  Consumers can access the link and the mailing address through the Arizona Attorney General’s Office at www.azag.gov.

Arizona consumers should also file a complaint online with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office through the Internet by visiting www.azag.gov .