State Assemblyman Robert Oaks (R-Macedon) reminded constituents that with the New Year can come an influx of e-mails, sometimes with promises of increased or new credit lines to lure unsuspecting victims. This identity theft scam, known as "phishing" makes it possible for a con artist to steal a victim’s identity and run up huge bills in that person’s name.
According to Oaks, the state Banking Department has issued warnings to consumers about e-mails that ask for personal or identifying information while appearing to come from financial institutions and other well-known companies. Thieves use the scheme to trick people into providing their personal information, including account passwords, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, personal identification numbers and other private financial information.
"I know this is a problem because it happened to me," Oaks said. "The lesson to be learned is never give security information about your accounts in response to an e-mail request." "I had to cancel a credit card," said Oaks. "If you suspect fraudulent activity, contact your bank immediately."
Oaks noted that the e-mails may look authentic, right down to the use of an institution’s logo and marketing slogans. The e-mails often describe a situation that requires immediate attention and warn that the account will be terminated unless the e-mail recipients verify their account information by clicking on a provided link. Banking Department employees say they have seen bogus e-mails purporting to be from Citibank, SunTrust Banks, PayPal and others.
For more information on phishing and how to avoid becoming a victim, visit www.phishinginfo.org to access a fact sheet about this identity theft crime.
According to Oaks, in addition to regulating banking institutions, the Banking Department is active in informing and educating all New Yorkers on banking matters. To contact the Banking Department, call toll-free (877) BANK-NYS (226-5697) or visit www.banking.state.ny.us.