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MAINE BUREAU OF FINANCIAL REGULATION
35 SHS, Augusta, Maine 04333
Contact: Colette Mooney
(207) 624-8574
  Ann Beane
(207) 624-8581

For Immediate Release
November 22, 2004
   

Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions Announces
New Consumer Information Web site

Bureau launches campaign to warn Maine consumers of Internet fraud

Augusta, Maine: 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 Ann.P.Beane@Maine.gov 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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Last Updated: May 24, 2011