E-mail and Internet-related fraudulent schemes, such as "phishing" (pronounced "fishing"), are being perpetrated with increasing frequency, creativity and intensity. Phishing involves the use of seemingly legitimate e-mail messages and Internet Web sites to deceive consumers into disclosing sensitive information, such as bank account information, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, and personal identification numbers (PINs). The perpetrator of the fraudulent e-mail message may use various means to convince the recipient that the message is legitimate and from a trusted source with which the recipient has an established business relationship, such as a bank. Techniques such as a false "from" address or the use of seemingly legitimate bank logos, Web links and graphics may be used to mislead e-mail recipients.
In most phishing schemes, the fraudulent e-mail message will request that recipients "update" or "validate" their financial or personal information in order to maintain their accounts, and direct them to a fraudulent Web site that may look very similar to the Web site of the legitimate business. These Web sites may include copied or "spoofed" pages from legitimate Web sites to further trick consumers into thinking they are responding to a bona fide request. Some consumers will mistakenly submit financial and personal information to the perpetrator who will use it to gain access to financial records or accounts, commit identity theft or engage in other illegal acts.
Customers who fall prey to e-mail and Internet-related fraudulent schemes face real and immediate risk. Criminals will normally act quickly to gain unauthorized access to financial accounts, commit identity theft, or engage in other illegal acts before the victim realizes the fraud has occurred and takes action to stop it.