. . . . . NEWS
BUREAU OF FINANCIAL REGULATION
35 SHS, Augusta, Maine 04333
November 22, 2004
Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions
New Consumer Information Web site
Bureau launches campaign to warn Maine consumers of Internet
Each day thousands of unsuspecting Maine consumers receive e-mail
messages that could lead to financial disaster. Con artists from
around the world are targeting Maine consumers with fraudulent schemes
to obtain account information. The proliferation and increasing
sophistication of these schemes has led the Maine Bureau of Financial
Institutions to launch a new campaign to warn Mainers of the danger
posed by Internet fraud.
“The best way to avoid becoming a victim to these ever-growing
sophisticated scams is to become better educated,” said Colette
Mooney, acting superintendent of the Bureau of Financial Institutions.
“Maine people need a centralized location to learn about identity
theft, “phishing,” and a variety of other topics related
to financial products and services. The Bureau of Financial Institutions
has responded by developing a Consumer Outreach Program that provides
this information and can answer questions Maine consumers might
have about suspicious e-mails and other questionable activities.”
Three of the most common forms of Internet fraud are “phishing,”
Trojans and fake check scams.
“Phishing” begins with an e-mail, supposedly from your
bank or credit union, asking you to update your password or verify
or re-submit personal financial information. The scam artists make
their e-mails appear legitimate by copying the company’s logo
and other identifying characteristics. The e-mail provides a link
that connects you directly to a Web site that replicates your bank
or credit union’s site. The bogus site asks you to input account
and security information. This information is then used to fraudulently
access your funds and other personal information.
Banks and credit unions are not the only institutions subject to
phishing scams. E-Bay and the Internet payment clearer PayPal have
also been targeted in this way.
The Anti-Phishing Working Group, an association comprised of online
businesses and the law enforcement community, estimate that e-mail
fraud and phishing attacks are growing exponentially with an average
of almost 38 new, unique attacks sent out to millions of consumers
each day. A Gartner Group study recently estimated that more than
57 million Americans, representing 40 percent of all online users,
received a phishing e-mail.
Trojans are another means by which scam artists can fraudulently
obtain one’s personal financial information. Trojans are e-mails
with free offers for screen savers, music or greeting cards. If
you download the free offer, a virus installs a program that records
everything you type on your keyboard, providing hackers with your
passwords and financial details. Using this information, they then
go online and transfer money from your account.
“The first rule for avoiding Internet fraud is to never respond
to e-mails asking for your account information and never go to your
bank or credit union's Web site via a link in an e-mail. Customers
should realize that no bank or credit union will ever ask for personal
information by e-mail. If you receive one of these messages, simply
delete it. If you have any doubts, contact your bank or credit union
by phone,” said Consumer Outreach Specialist Ann Beane.
A third common scam involves a fake check. There are many variations
on these scams, but they all involve a stranger proposing to send
you a check and have you wire money in return. In some cases the
scam artist claims to give you an advance on a sweepstakes you won,
but requires you to wire back some of the money as fees to collect
your “winnings.” In other cases, the crooks claim to
be in another country and ask for your help in obtaining money they
are owed. They claim it’s too difficult for someone in the
U.S. who owes them money to make payment directly, so they’ll
have that person send you a check. The amount of the check is more
than they are owed, so you’re instructed to deposit the check
and wire the excess back. In these schemes the check you’re
sent is a forgery, but they are so realistic that even bank tellers
may be fooled. By the time the check bounces, you’ve already
wired the money to the crooks. Because customers are responsible
for the checks they deposit in their accounts, the victims of these
scams are left to repay the bank or credit union the money they
withdrew against the bad check.
The Bureau’s new online Consumer Library can provide information
on these and other scams at http://www.maine.gov/pfr/bkg/bkg_library.htm.
But the library is not limited to information only on fraud. It
provides a wide range of information and links that can help consumers
with dozens of financial topics. “Browse through the Bureau’s
Web library,” says Consumer Outreach Specialist Ann Beane.
If you don’t find what you are looking for, contact me at
and I will help you.”
The Bureau of Financial Institutions is part of the Department
of Professional and Financial Regulation, which encourages sound
ethical business practices through high quality, impartial and efficient
regulation of insurers, financial institutions, creditors, investment
providers, and numerous professions and occupations for the purpose
of protecting the citizens of Maine. Consumers can reach the Bureau
through its Web site at www.maine.gov/financialinstitutions/index.shtml;
by calling 800-965-5235 in state; or by writing to Bureau of Financial
Institutions, 36 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333.
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