Identity thieves are now impersonating high-profile banks to persuade people to give up their bank and credit card account numbers.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is warning people about a scam in which e-mails claiming to be from CitiBank, US Bank and others are being sent to e-mail addresses in the hope of duping unsuspecting consumers and businesses.
The e-mails claim that identity theft attempts have been made on their customers, and ask customers to confirm their banking details to safeguard their accounts. Consumers are directed either to Internet sites or telephone hotlines to provide the information.
The identity thieves are mass-circulating the e-mails because they are being sent to both people who are and aren’t customers of the impersonated bank.
"If you receive an unsolicited e-mail and you’ve not signed up with your bank or your credit card company to receive those kinds of e-mails, then it’s a scam and you don’t want to answer those," said Andrea Esquer, attorney general’s office spokeswoman. "If you’re going to do something over the Internet, it’s something that you should have started."
A five-page brochure that addresses identity theft issues is available at the attorney general’s Web site, www.azag.gov.
The thieves put a lot of effort into making their solicitations look legitimate, said Heather Murphy, Arizona Corporation Commission spokeswoman.
"Because you can grab graphics off the Internet by clicking them, people can make Web sites pretty creatively that look like the official Web sites of banks, or cell phone providers, or utilities and so forth," she said.
"Some of these e-mails include a hyperlink that takes you to this official-looking page where you verify and enter all of your information. People should just not bother with anything like that. It’s just asking for trouble."
Identity thieves only need your name, address and one account number to wreak havoc on your finances, Esquer said.
This latest scam goes right along with other efforts to steal people’s information online, she said.
The Attorney Genera’ office gives the following tips to prevent identity theft:
• When shopping online, use a credit card, not a debit card. Credit cards usually include some theft protection and a credit limit. Debit cards don’t include theft protection, and provide direct access to your checking and possibility savings accounts.
• Cancel any credit cards you don’t use, and shred any pre-approved credit card offers you receive in the mail.