Volume 3 Number 48
November 27, 2006

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BE ON THE ALERT FOR SUSPICIOUS EMAILS

PayPal sent an email requesting an update on account information due to a supposed security breach that could cause a loss of access. Or so it seemed. Unfortunately the e-mail was not from PayPal. Filling out the phony form handed over private financial information to cybercriminals.

Phishing, identity theft through an email or Web site that seems to be legitimate, is used by scammers to get personal information from individuals and use it for fraudulent purposes.

Phishing and financial fraud have become a challenging part of the financial services industry. In Florida, financial institutions spend increasingly
larger amounts each year for recovery from financial scams.

Scammers pretend to be banks or actual businesses such as PayPal. The emailers use logos and messages that look and sound authentic, and request personal information such as addresses, Social Security numbers, debit card numbers, personal identification numbers and telephone numbers.

Though some of the phishing emails can be fairly sophisticated, misspelled words and poor grammar are signs that the messages are counterfeit. Plus, a legitimate organization would not ask for information such as PINs over the internet or the phone.

Despite warnings, consumers can fall for the phishers' scams. Victims should take protective steps by telling credit bureaus of possible identity theft to avoid the compromise of personal information.

The Fraud Hotline at the Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Hotline should both be notified. Watch for unauthorized charges on credit card statements and check for fraudulent accounts that may have been opened in the victim's name.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the Fair Credit Billing Act limits the liability for unauthorized credit card charges to $50 per card.

Liability for debit card charges depend on how quickly the loss is reported. Unauthorized transactions reported within two business days limit losses to $50. Reporting between three and 60 days raises the liability to $500 and after 60 days the entire amount becomes the responsibility of the victim.

Phishing may make consumers hesitant to use online banking but it actually can help find fraud faster because accounts can be checked frequently.