Deceptive “Phishing” Schemes Target Consumers

June 1, 2016

JACKSON – As criminals find new ways to commit identity theft and fraud, Attorney General Jim Hood today urged Mississippi consumers to use caution when receiving an email or text message that initially looks likes legitimate correspondence from a bank or business.

The reminder comes at the same time some consumers were targets of an email purported to be from a Memphis-based financial institution that in fact was an attempt by scammers to gain access to banking information. As with similar efforts to elicit sensitive personal and financial data from consumers in a practice commonly known as “phishing,” the scammers in this latest email ruse stole company letterhead and used language in the email that initially makes it appear that the customer is being contacted by the institution. However, a closer look shows that the email is illegitimate.

Attorney General Hood advised consumers to reach out to their banks or credit unions directly to double-check the validity of unsolicited emails. 

“As we rely more and more on technology in our daily lives, scammers respond with increasingly sophisticated ways to use technology to cheat and steal,” Attorney General Hood said. “Fortunately, there are often some red flags that can help consumers spot these brazen attempts at fraud and identity theft.” 

For instance, in the recent email claiming to be from the Memphis financial institution, there were some grammatical errors and the message font was inconsistent. The message even made reference to a different bank and different time zone. In an attempt to assure recipients, the message also had language warning consumers of the dangers of spam email – which is exactly what this email was.    

Even if the content of a message sounds reasonable or convincing, Attorney General Hood encourages consumers check for errors and also follow these recommendations:

*Never provide personal or financial information in response to any unsolicited email or text. In fact, it is best to delete those solicitations and not respond.

*Keep in mind that financial institutions themselves will not seek to “verify” such information as bank account or credit card numbers since that particular information is generated and maintained by the institution itself. 

*Do not open links or attachments on any unsolicited emails or text messages that request personal, financial or account information.  It is likely that such links and attachments lead to viruses and malware designed to steal data.

*Always be suspicious of anyone that emails or sends a text message and asks for money to be wired or placed on a prepaid debit card. Chances are, those are scammers, especially if they’re located outside the United States. 

Consumers who receive suspicious emails or text messages may want to contact the business supposedly sending the message to let the business know that their name is being fraudulently used in a phishing attempt. 

Consumers who have provided information in response to a phishing scam should contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office at (800) 281-4418.  

For more information about how to guard against identity theft and scams, visit the Attorney General’s website: http://www.ago.state.ms.us/victims/identity-theft/

 

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