For Immediate Release - September 20, 2004

Consumers Urged to 'Report not Respond' to Suspect E-mail Requests

In recent days, eastern Massachusetts customers of Citizens Bank have reported receiving e-mails from an unknown entity seeking verification of their account information and directing them to an Internet link to input that information. Citizens Bank has acknowledged that no such request was made of its customers by the bank and has since reported the apparent fraud scheme to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is working to identify the e-mail's originators. Citizens' customers who may have responded to the e-mail and provided account information are urged to contact the bank immediately at (877) 229-6430.

This most recent spate of e-mails aimed at financial institutions' customers underscores the need for consumers to be skeptical of any solicitation holding itself out as a bank or creditor and seeking verification or additional financial information over the telephone or the Internet.

"Internet phishing is getting bolder, judging by the institutions being mimicked on-line. Consumers need to report these solicitations to their banks instead of responding to them," said Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom. "In almost all instances, banks and creditors do not ask for your financial information on-line. Consumers can help themselves, their bank or creditor and law enforcement by reporting it immediately," Lindstrom added.

In her ongoing effort to bring greater consumer awareness and education to the prevention of identity theft, Director Lindstrom urges consumers who make on-line purchases to look for safety features to ensure a secure or "encrypted" transaction.

  • Make sure a "lock" icon appears in the bottom strip of the web page in which personal information is input;
  • Note that the "URL" address for the web page should change from "http" to "https" for the page where personal information is to be entered.

"We know the faster consumers act to report stolen personal or financial information, the less chance for widespread financial damage to them. The same rule of thumb applies here for suspect solicitors," Lindstrom added.

IDENTITY THEFT CONTACTS

Verify authenticity with banks and credit card companies before providing any personal information, but if you suspect you have given out information to a fraudulent solicitor, contact the following agencies:

  • Contact the fraud units at the three credit bureaus:
Equifax1-800-525-6285
Experian1-888-397-3742
TransUnion1-800-680-7289

  • Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Hotline
    1-877-438-4338
  • Social Security Fraud Hotline
    1-800-269-0271
  • U.S. Postal Inspectors
    1-800-372-8347