By Maria Jose Subiria
Federal officials and consumer watchdogs are warning of a possible ploy, involving e-mails purported to be from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), to lure computers users to download suspicious software.
The e-mails come with a message asking receivers to download and open their "personal FDIC insurance file" to check their deposit insurance coverage, according to the Better Business Bureau.
The e-mail claims the receiver's bank has failed, and that the FDIC has taken it over, the bureau said. The e-mail instructs receivers to click on a link leading them to a false web site that appears to belong to the FDIC. The web site includes links that appear to open forms. The Better Business Bureau said it believes that if consumers click on those links, they may download some form of malicious software, or a file that may be intended to collect personal information.
"The FDIC does not ask consumers to validate account information, or personal information," said David Barr, a spokesman for the FDIC. "Consumers should now realize that the FDIC won't ask for that information."
According to Barr, the FDIC is working with the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team to determine the nature of the file.
Barr couldn't provide details of the investigation, or how long the investigation will last, for security reasons.
"Sometimes they [malicious computer files] are not there to check information, they are there to spread viruses," he added.
Barr said officials with the FDIC were made aware of the so-called "phishing" scam on Monday.
"It is not the first time the FDIC has been used as a hook for phishing," said Barr.
The FDIC's name has been used in five scams so far this year, he added.
Fred Elsberry, Jr., a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau, said that while America's economy is improving, e-mail scams are not uncommon and are escalating.
"They [scammers] are ... people who see this as their employment," said Elsberry.
Elsberry said cyberspace criminals sometimes, in the course of running their scams, use the names of organizations that appear in the news and may be familiar to potential victims.
"They really play on the headlines," he said.