An e-mail that claims to be from Chandler-based First Credit Union warns of an "impostor e-mail" aimed at persuading members to give up their personal banking information.
The warning e-mail sounds sincere and authentic, but it’s actually the impostor e-mail and asks for personal information to "help us protect your account against fraudulent activity and impostor e-mail."
"This is scam e-mail," said Carolyn Cameron, First Credit Union’s vice president of marketing. "We tell our members . . . that we will never contact you to ask you for your personal information because we’ve already got it. So why would we be sending you a link to go enter your personal information?"
Identity thefts have been known to impersonate large, high-profile financial institutions, but this is an indication that they’re now targeting smaller, local institutions, she said.
"They’ve dwindled or gone down to the smaller institutions like the community banks and the credit unions, I think, because they’ve exhausted their efforts with the megabanks," Cameron said. "Now they’re searching for smaller institutions that are a little more obscure, but still have a number of people out there who would respond to these phishing e-mails."
Phishing refers to fraudulent e-mails that are widely distributed in hopes of reaching and duping people who may or may not be members of the credit union, she said.
"I would say in the past three or four months maybe we’ve seen an increase in First Credit Union e-mail scams or e-mails that are fraudulently representing themselves as First Credit Union," Cameron said.
"Our strategy has been education because it’s not the credit union systems that have been affected, and all of our account information is secure," Cameron said. "Nothing has been stolen from the credit union itself. We’ve had procedures in place for a long time now to identify e-mail fraud and to get it shut down as quickly as possible. But as soon as one shuts down, another one pops up somewhere and here we go again."
A brochure that addresses identify theft issues is available at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office Web site, at www.azag.gov.
"Banking institutions will not send you an e-mail like that," said Andrea Esquer, the attorney general’s press secretary. "People need to know that financial institutions will have other ways of verifying information. Our mantra is if you receive an e-mail like this, nine times out of 10 it’s a scam and you just don’t want to respond directly to these e-mails."