26 January 2004

E-mail scam taps antiterrorist push, says FDIC

E-mail scam taps antiterrorist push, says FDIC | CNET News.com:

By Robert Lemos
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the national insurer of U.S. bank accounts, warned Americans on Friday that a convincing e-mail scam is making the rounds.

The fraudulent e-mail claims to be from the FDIC and informs recipients that their bank account has been denied insurance as a result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security into 'suspected violations of the Patriot Act.' The USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, gives broad powers to law enforcement to combat terrorism.

'Someone really did their homework,' said David Barr, a spokesman for the FDIC, adding that the letter is mostly free of the grammatical and spelling mistakes that usually act as a sign that the message is not genuine. Moreover, citations of the little-understood antiterrorism law, whose acronym stands for 'Uniting and Strengthening of America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism,' lend the message a dire tone.

'The Patriot Act is an actual act out there. It's done through Homeland Security, and it's used to block the flow of money,' making the fraudulent e-mail seem at least plausible, Barr said.

The FDIC sent out the advisory after being inundated with complaints from consumers, who were worried that their bank accounts wouldn't have the $100,000 protection historically guaranteed by the FDIC.

The scheme is only the latest attempt to get personal and financial information through fraud, a criminal activity known as 'phishing.' Similar messages have targeted customers of Citibank, Wells Fargo, PayPal and other financial companies, but haven't cited the USA PATRIOT Act."

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