It's Scam Time

The signs of holiday cheer are all around – bright lights, silver bells, festive decorations, scammers stepping up their efforts to separate the unwary from their cash.

The signs of holiday cheer are all around — bright lights, silver bells, and festive decorations. A not-so-cheerful sign of the holidays is also showing up – scammers are stepping up their efforts to separate the unwary from their cash. Often feeding on the economic fears created by the recession, the crooks are using rip-offs based on today’s headlines to attract their victims. A favorite scam tactic is “phishing,” which involves fake messages, supposedly from banks or government entities, that look real, even up to logos and official seals.

One recent scam e-mail, trading on the ongoing flood of bank failures, claims to be from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It claims that it’s notifying you that your bank has failed and asks you click on a link that will direct you to the FDIC site. The link takes you to a fraudulent site instead, where you’ll be asked for sensitive account information. Give that up and the thieves are free to raid your bank account, use your credit card, and steal your identity. A similar e-mail, supposedly from Citibank, is making the rounds, telling depositors that they have had three failed log-in attempts and telling them to click on a link to log-in.

Consumer fraud experts caution that you should never click on an e-mail link, no matter how official the e-mail looks, without verifying that it’s legitimate. If you get a message that says it’s from your bank, go to the Web address that you usually use to access your account and use the site’s “Contact Us” link to make sure the message is for real. Government agencies, including the FDIC, rarely use e-mail to contact consumers, so you should be leery of any message that says it’s from the government.