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Beware of fraud originating in phone messages and faxes

FDIC Consumer News has warned before about crooks who call or e-mail consumers and pretend to be legitimate companies or government agencies wanting people to "verify" or "resubmit" (divulge) confidential information such as bank account or credit card numbers as well as Social Security numbers, passwords and personal identification numbers. Here are variations to know about.

One involves pre-recorded phone messages, supposedly from a financial institution or a government agency, describing some "urgent" matter involving your bank account. If you return the call, you'll be instructed to answer a series of questions about yourself and your bank account using the touch-tone keypad on your telephone. Unfortunately, it's possible the sensitive information you provide can be used to gain unauthorized access to your bank account or commit identity theft.

"The incoming call and the recorded message may look and sound very legitimate, right down to the phone number appearing on your caller-ID screen," explained Michael Benardo, manager of the FDIC's Financial Crimes Section. "We're especially concerned that some people who think they're less vulnerable to fraud because they rarely or never use the Internet will let their guard down against phone fraud, especially when they hear convincing messages about some 'emergency' and that they must respond to right way."

Another fraud to beware of involves faxes. Recently, for example, the FDIC uncovered a scam in which fake FDIC notices were faxed to businesses and consumers in an attempt to collect confidential information.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Don't give out personal identification information over the phone unless you initiate the contact with the other party and you know it's reputable. "Scammers may even pose as government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service or the FDIC," said Jeff Kopchik, an FDIC Senior Policy Analyst for technology issues. "For the average consumer, there is no way to know for sure who is the actual caller or sender of a fax."

Remember that your bank, credit card company and the FDIC would never contact you asking for personal information. Assume any such unsolicited request - by phone, fax or e-mail - is fraudulent.

Don't rely on a phone number provided in an unsolicited call, e-mail or fax. Any time you want to call your bank, credit card company, a government agency or other organization regarding matters involving personal or financial information, use the phone number provided in the phone book or another resource you trust, not the number listed in a voice-mail message, e-mail or fax.

Source: Summer 2008 FDIC Consumer News. This publication may be reprinted in whole or in part. Please credit FDIC Consumer News.

FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Consumer News 2005 - 2010

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