FTC warns: Financial quagmire bringing out the scammers

You could probably see this one coming. With all of the confusion and money involved you knew there would be cyber-vultures out there looking to cash in. Well the Federal Trade Commission today issued a warning that indeed such increased phishing activities are taking place.

Specifically the FTC said it was urging user caution regarding e-mails that look as if they come from a financial institution that recently acquired a consumer's bank, savings and loan, or mortgage. In many case such emails are only looking to obtain personal information - account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers - to run up bills or commit other crimes in a consumer's name, the FTC stated.

The warning comes as the FBI Cyber Crime Task Force said this week it had arrested the first person under a new computer fraud law that makes it a federal crime to commit extortion relating to unauthorized access of, or damage to, a protected computer system or to impair the confidentiality of information obtained from that computer. In this case the person was trying to exploit customers of flailing insurance giant AIG.

In addition, ScanSafe and other Web security watchers are reporting a big uptick in the number of hackers using the Bank of America brand in a phishing attack that uses the bad economy as a lure.

Perhaps the concern is unfounded as this PC World article notes. The article states that more than half of us are deleting messages from banks and financial institutions without even thinking twice. Experts say recipients who receive these e-mails believe that all the messages are part of phishing e-mail scams.

And financial institutions are soon going to be required to more strongly enforce customer identity. These so-called "Red Flag Rules" are to be implemented by Nov. 1 and require financial and credit institutions that hold any consumer account, or other account for which there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of identity theft, to develop and implement an Identity Theft Prevention Program for combating identity theft in connection with new and existing accounts, the FTC said.

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