Island Gazette

Watch out for the latest phishing scams, warns AG Cooper

Scammers pretend to be banks, IRS to steal your info

RALEIGH, NC : February 26, 2009 - Don’t fall for scammers who contact you by telephone or email, claiming to be with your bank or the IRS, Attorney General Roy Cooper warned consumers today.
“Hard times make scammers even more creative.  They will call you, email you, or even text message you to try to steal your information and your money,” Cooper said.  “Don’t fall for these tricks.”
Phishing scams use telephone calls, emails, web sites and text messages that pretend to come from a legitimate organization and falsely claim to need your personal financial information.  
The latest phishing scam reported to Cooper’s office today involves text messages that pretend to come from the State Employees’ Credit Union, telling people that they need to contact the credit union about their account by calling a specific phone number.  The text message is a scam and people should delete it, Cooper said.  Cooper’s office has been in contact with the credit union, which is aware of the scam and is working to stop it.
Other recent phishing attempts have used the names of a variety of banks, including Wachovia, Telco Credit Union and Fleet Bank.  Consumers get calls, emails and text messages that pretend to come from banks and credit card companies.  The messages often claim that there is a problem with your account such as suspicious activity and that you need to confirm your account number and password or PIN.  
Consumers in North Carolina and elsewhere have also reported phishing emails that pretend to come from the IRS.  The phony emails tell people that they are eligible for a tax refund.  The emails often include a link to a web site where people are asked to provide information such as their bank account or credit card number. The IRS does not request taxpayers’ personal information by email.
 “The IRS isn’t going to email you for your personal information.  Your bank and your credit card company already have your information and won’t call or email you to ask for it,” Cooper warned.  “No matter how real these messages sound or look, don’t take the bait.”
Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division gets calls each week from North Carolinians reporting the latest phishing scams. 
Cooper offered consumers the following tips to avoid falling victim to a phishing scam:
• Beware of emails, calls or text messages that ask for personal information like your Social Security Number or bank account number.
Don’t reply, click on any links or open any attachments. 
Clicking on these links or attachments can infect your computer with spyware or viruses.
• Don’t be fooled by real-looking logos or web sites. Many phishing emails use the logo of a real company and a link to what looks like the company’s actual web site.  Phishing emails may claim to come from major companies, banks, non-profits and government agencies. 
• Report it.  Report suspect emails, calls or text messages to the real business or organization from which the scammer pretends to be. 
Contact the company using a telephone number or web address you know to be valid, such as contact information listed on a recent bill or account statement.
If the message comes by email, forward it to the Federal Trade Commission at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  
• Never share personal financial information with someone you don’t know who calls you.
• Never share personal information by email or text message, even with someone you know and trust.
Email and text messages can be vulnerable to hackers. If you need to share information with a legitimate company, use a secure web site. Look for a lock icon on the web site and a web address that starts with “https.” 
• Use antivirus and firewall software on your computer. Don’t open any attachments or download files that come from people you don’t know. 
• If you’ve responded to a phishing scam, protect yourself quickly.  Contact your bank and credit card company immediately.
You could also be a victim of identity theft. You can get ID theft help from the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by visiting www.noscamnc.gov or by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll free within North Carolina.
Source: North Carolina Department of Justice.

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