E-mail scam targets
financial information

Victims are asked to verify
personal details or face
an FBI probe

An e-mail scam uses the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. trying to get personal financial information and is not a new scheme, federal investigators say.

"It's becoming a very fast-growing scam," said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson in Washington, D.C. "We are actively investigating to determine the origin of these messages."

People need to be aware of such scams because they often feel they are responding to legitimate e-mail from a merchant or bank, he said.

The FDIC Consumer Call Centers in Kansas City, Mo., and Washington, D.C., began receiving a flood of complaints since Jan. 23, and the problem is not isolated to one region of the country. Hawaii e-mail account holders have been hit.

The FDIC and FBI want to find the source to disrupt the transmission and are asking consumers to report similar attempts by sending information to

The fraudulent e-mail, with "important news about your bank account" in the subject line, states: "Your account has been denied insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation due to suspected violations of the Patriot Act."

It tells the recipient the Department of Homeland Security has advised the FDIC "to suspend all deposit insurance on your account until such time as we can verify your identity and your account information."

The e-mail next instructs the recipient to click onto a link to have his or her identity verified. It warns failure to do so "will cause all insurance for all your accounts to be terminated and all records of your account history will be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation" for analysis and verification.

It also warns that failure may result in a visit from government or homeland security officials.

The FBI warns people not to click on the link.

Lt. Pat Tomasu of the Honolulu Police Department's Financial Fraud Detail, said in similar schemes, if the recipient clicks onto a link, he is diverted to an anonymous Web site to "verify information" but allows hackers to capture a person's computer information.

So far, the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii has received one call from a man who did not respond to the e-mail, and checked it out with his bank.

Anne Deschene, president of the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii said "people are getting a little jaded," but there may be a number of people, who may actually respond.

Bank of Hawaii spokesman Stafford Kiguchi said he has not heard of any specific inquiries from customers about this issue, but the bank's call center and managers have been informed about the scam.

Deschene said the scam is novel in that it uses the fear of the USA Patriot Act. "The rules still apply; it just takes new shape," she said.

Bresson said e-mail schemes often use well-known, reputable companies such as eBay and Best Buy, Amazon Books or even make pleas to make donations to start a cancer research institute. They play on emotions of fear, sympathy or greed, he said.

Tips to avoid scams

>> Do not click on a link provided within a questionable e-mail and do not provide any personal information through it.

>> Report similar attempts to obtain information (by anyone claiming to be from the FDIC) by sending information to

>> Anyone who may be a victim to this or similar scheme should send information to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at

>> Don't provide unsolicited requests over the phone or e-mail with bank or other personal information (e.g., credit and debit card numbers, Social Security number, birth date, address, mother's maiden name).

>> If you question whether a call or e-mail is legitimate, call the merchant or bank directly.


E-mail to City Desk


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