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Beware of "phishing" scams on the Internet

Updated February 15, 2012

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a warning that affects you and the way you conduct business on the Internet. Internet scammers casting about for people’s financial information have a new method of luring unsuspecting victims called "phishing." Phishing is a high-tech scam that uses spam to deceive consumers into disclosing their credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords and other sensitive personal information.

According to the FTC, the latest phishing scam involves e-mails that claim to be from, a real web site where consumers can participate in government rule making by submitting comments. The e-mail subject line typically reads "Official information" or "Urgent information to all credit card holders!" The message’s text claims that, "Due to recent changes in rules and regulations, it is required by law for all Internet users to identify themselves in compliance with CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) to create a secure and safer Internet community." The e-mail includes a link to a web site that mimics and asks readers to provide their personal and financial information.

Individuals should know that there is no law requiring Internet users to register with the government. Furthermore, does not collect financial information or charge consumers a fee for submitting comments. Consumers who provide their financial information in response to an unsolicited e-mail could be at risk for becoming a victim of identity theft.

If you receive an unsolicited e-mail that claims to be from the federal government asking for your information, do not respond. Forward the spam to the FTC at so that it can be made available to law enforcement.

Avoid e-mailing personal and financial information. If you receive an unexpected e-mail from a company or a government agency asking for your personal information, contact the company or the agency cited in the e-mail using a telephone number that you know to be genuine, or type in the web address that you know to be correct in order to verify the information contained in the e-mail.

If you have recently shared your credit card or bank account information in response to an unsolicited e-mail that claimed to be from, notify your credit card company or bank immediately and discuss whether you should cancel your accounts. Monitor your accounts carefully.

If you have provided your Social Security number in response to an unsolicited e-mail, contact one of the three national consumer reporting agencies immediately, ask that a fraud alert be placed on your accounts and obtain copies of your credit reports. You should also visit the FTC’s identity theft website to file a complaint and learn more about how to minimize your risk of damage from identity theft. If you notice any irregular activity on your credit report, contact your local law enforcement agency as well. is operated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in association with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Archives and Records Administration/Office of the Federal Register, and the Government Printing Office. The FTC and other federal agencies use the portal to receive comments from the public regarding proposed rules and regulations.

The FTC works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid such practices. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud related-complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, on-line database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad.

To file a complaint with the FTC or to receive free information on consumer issues, visit the FTC website or call toll-free (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357); TTY: (866) 653-4261.

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