Thursday, January 20, 2005
That's Just Wrong: Bank Scam
Spam and scams have been a big problem on the Internet for years. But a new scam where crooks pretend to be your bank is catching even the most savvy web-surfers off-guard. The scam is so deceptive, it's just wrong.
WSVN -- Kathy Machado used to pay her bills by writing checks and mailing them out; what many of us do.
But a couple of years ago, she got hooked on the Internet, and now she pays her bills on-line.
"That's where I keep all my money, that's where I go to every day, pay my bills," said Kathy Machado.
But the other day, Kathy got worried when she received this e-mail from her bank, Washington Mutual, claiming someone had accessed her checking account without her permission.
"It said notification of unauthorized access on the subject," said Kathy.
The e-mail looked so official, it even included a link to Washington Mutual's web site asking her to verify her account number and password.
"About a week later, um, I'm negative hundreds of dollars in my checking account," said Kathy.
Turns out what Kathy thought was an e-mail from the bank was actually a fake created by crooks in Eastern Europe.
Once they got Kathy's information, they used it to withdraw money from her account.
"I would have never filled out anything on line, ever, if it didn't look so real," said Kathy.
Crooks have actually gotten so good at this scam, they have a name for it -- it's called "Phishing."
They cast out what appears to be a real e-mail, and then hope someone will take the bait.
"They can take over a person's complete identity, they can get credit cards in their name, they can get driver's license in their name. They can apply for social security benefits, insurance benefits, death benefits and any number of things," said Branch Walton from Profit Protection.
And Washington Mutual isn't the only corporate victim.
Citibank, Wachovia, American Online, even e-bay have all been targeted.
The websites look so authentic, when you put the real and fake side by side, they appear to be identical.
"The average person just has no way to tell if it's legitimate or not legitimate," said Branch Walton.
But take a closer look, and there are some discrepancies like misspellings.
Plus bank security expert Branch Walton says there's another big difference.
"Your legitimate bank, your legitimate insurance company, credit card company will not ask you to input information, they already have it, and if you have any question about it, our recommendation is you call," said Branch Walton.
Kathy hopes other people will learn from her mistake.
Fortunately for her, Washington Mutual agreed to repay what the crooks stole.
"It makes me furious you know that someone could go on and make everything look so real. I still want to use on-line banking because it's just so convenient but at the same time you've just got to be careful," said Kathy Machado.
Investigating these types of crimes are tough because many of the bad guys are overseas.
If you are a victim, it's very important you report the crime to the merchants involved, the Federal Trade Commission, local police and major credit bureaus.
PLEASE SEND STORY IDEAS TO:
Profit Protection and National Association for Bank Security
Identity Theft Resource Center
Federal Trade Commission
Experian (Formerly TRW)