AUSTIN, Texas – Bank customers should never give out their personal financial From STAFF REPORTSinformation in response to an unsolicited phone call, fax or e-mail – no matter how official it may seem – warns the Texas Bankers Association.

Phishing is a crime in which literal nets are cast wide across the Internet in order to con unwitting consumers into divulging critical financial information. Scammers, claiming to be from a financial institution, send out thousands of fake e-mails in hopes that customers will respond with their bank account information, credit card numbers, passwords or other sensitive information.

The crime shows no signs of abatement. In fact, according to Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., more than 5 million U.S. consumers lost money to phishing attacks between September 2007 and 2008, a 39.8 percent increase over the number of victims a year earlier.

In vishing, or phone phishing scams, criminals attempt to coax sensitive information from unwitting victims over the telephone, often using Voice over Internet Protocol, which uses the same technology that delivers e-mail via the Internet. The criminals can spoof any phone number on the receiver’s caller ID and they can also give customers local numbers to call, even if those numbers terminate in another country. In some instances, victims receive e-mails directing them to call the toll-free number and provide personal information.

 To avoid becoming a victim of phishing or vishing scams, the Texas Bankers Association offers the following tips:

Never give out your personal financial information in response to an unsolicited phone call, fax or e-mail, no matter how official it may seem.

Do not respond to e-mail that may warn of dire consequences unless you validate your information immediately. Contact the company to confirm the email’s validity using a telephone number or Web address you know to be genuine.

Check your credit card and bank account statements regularly and look for unauthorized transactions, even small ones. Some thieves hope small transactions will go unnoticed. Report discrepancies immediately.

When submitting financial information online, look for the padlock or key icon at the bottom of your Internet browser. Also, many secure Internet addresses, though not all, use “https” to signify that your information is secure during transmission.

Report suspicious activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

If you have responded to an e-mail or phone call, contact your bank immediately so bank employees can protect your account and your identity.  

For more information on phishing, visit the following:

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnwin0304/phishing.html

Federal Trade Commission

www.ftc.gov

Anti-Phishing Working Group

www.antiphishing.org/index.html

National Consumers League

www.phishinginfo.org/

OCC Consumer Protection News

www.occ.gov/Consumer/phishing.htm

OCC Consumer Complaints and Assistance Web site

www.occ.treas.gov/AntiFraudConsumer.htm#PhishingPharming

TBA represents the Texas banking industry – with members ranging from the smallest bank in the nation to the largest bank in the nation. This includes 85 percent of Texas banks, 5,000 bank branches and 95 percent of deposits.