Computer Crime Research Center


Bank customers: Internet scam targets

Date: September 14, 2006
By: Kerry Duke

Customers of Fifth Third Bank are being barraged by Internet scam artists who have fired off millions of e-mail messages in the name of the bank to try to trick customers into revealing personal identity information, the bank and law enforcement agencies say.

Targeting customers of financial institutions in Internet identity theft scams is nothing new. In fact, more than 90 percent of the so-called "phishing" e-mail targets financial services, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, an industry association focused on eliminating identity theft and scams on the Internet.

What is new is the volume of phishing that is using the name of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third.

Debbie Wheeler, the bank's chief information security officer, said Fifth Third's name was among about 150 hijacked brands supplied in an Internet scammers kit that hit the hacker underground in July.

"We were added to an automated kit that makes it easy to target our brand," said Wheeler. "As long as our customers respond, it's profitable, and they're not going to let go of our brand."

For years, Fifth Third and most other financial institutions have warned customers of Internet identity theft scams in mailings and at banking Web sites. That warning is being underscored now as the onslaught of scammer e-mail tries to fool Fifth Third customers anew.

"We are communicating to customers the dangers of phishing and protecting their credentials, protecting themselves from identity theft," said Wheeler, who noted there are seven pages of warnings about phishing placed prominently on the bank's Web site.

Unfortunately, some customers have been taken in by the scam, she said.
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