A new Spam Scam Alert from the Federal Trade Commission could help consumers avoid becoming identity theft victims. The Alert, “Someone Is Phishing For Your Information,” warns that consumers may receive e-mails that claim to be from regulations.gov, a government Web site where consumers can comment on federal rule-making. The e-mails’ subject lines typically read, “Official information,” or “Urgent information to all credit card holders!” and claim that recent changes in the law require that Internet users identity themselves to the government to “create a secure and safer Internet community.” The e-mail includes a link to a Web site that mimics regulations.gov and asks readers to provide their personal financial information.
In fact, the alert warns, regulations.gov does not collect financial information or charge consumers a fee and there is no law requiring Internet users to register with the government. Consumers who provide their financial information in response to unsolicited e-mail could be at risk of identity theft.
The alert advises consumers who receive e-mail from a company or government agency asking for personal information to contact that organization using a phone number or Web address they have used in the past. They should not click on hyperlinks provided in the e-mail.
Consumers who recently have shared credit card or bank information in response to an unsolicited e-mail that claimed to be from regulations.gov should notify their credit card company or bank immediately and discuss whether they should cancel those accounts. Consumers who provided Social Security numbers should contact one of the three credit reporting agencies, ask to have a fraud alert placed on their accounts, and obtain copies of their credit reports to be sure new accounts have not been opened in their names. The alert says that consumers should visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Web Site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft to file a complaint and learn more about how to minimize the risk of damage from identity theft.
Copies of the consumer alert are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1 877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.