Gone Phishin’: E-mail scammers target Credit Union

E-mail scammers are targeting users of the USF Federal Credit Union, so the Credit Union has issued a warning to prevent “phishers” from luring its customers into divulging personal information.

A fraudulent e-mail sent to students in the last several days titled “Activate Your Credit Card” refers to the e-mail recipient as a “customer,” stating that he or she has had unusual activity in his or her account caused by a third-party intrusion.

The e-mail states that several charges were made to the user’s credit card, listing the first four digits of the card. Users are then told to click a link – with a URL similar to that of the USF Federal Credit Union’s Web site – to cancel the fraudulent charges. They are then asked for their account information.

As of now it is unclear how many students disclosed their financial information because of the scam e-mail. Credit Union President Tom Ness said it appears that many students received the e-mail from a source located in Germany.

Sophomore Jack Blessee, member of the RHA Resident Concerns Committee, received the e-mail Monday morning, which prompted him to call VISA Customer Service, whose contact information is located on the Credit Union Web site.

“I don’t have an account with the Credit Union and found it odd I was receiving e-mails,” he said. “Upon receiving the message, I feared that someone had used my information to open a credit card under my name.”

Alex Campoe, associate director for Academic Computing, said that after a certain number of e-mails were received, the messages were flagged as spam by the anti-spam filter and were no longer distributed.

Although phishing scams are always a threat, Campoe said there are two times a year in which they are most common.

“An increase in scams occurs around the holidays and especially now, around tax season,” he said. “Consumers should be aware for anything that deals with banking via e-mails.”

In an effort to educate students, the Credit Union’s Web site posted information under the heading “Email ‘Phishing’ Scam: Don’t Get Hooked,” warning students to take precautions when asked for personal information over the Internet.

Ness said the Credit Union will never ask for members’ account information by e-mail or telephone and that students should not respond to requests for such information in any fashion.

“We will never ask for your personal information via e-mail because we already have that information,” he said. “Just because the Web site looks the same as ours doesn’t mean it is. Web sites can be copied easily with what appears to be the same URL address as the real page.”

In hopes of spreading awareness about fraudulent e-mails, Blessee plans to discuss the issue at RHA meetings. The information will then be given to resident assistants so they can get the word out to students via flyers or programs.